Artist biography

English painter and illustrator. A celebrity of London's bohemia and a key figure of Neo-Romanticism in the 1940s, he lived and worked with most of the younger generation Neo-Romantics. Invalided out of the army in 1943, he devoted himself to art, producing work for seven one-man shows between 1945 and 1956.

Minton's eclectic style combined elements of French and British Neo-Romanticism. His main theme, partly homoerotic, was the young male figure in emotionally charged settings. Five phases in his work have been identified, ranging from landscapes reminiscent of those of Samuel Palmer, to scenes of urban decay, such as Rotherhithe from Wapping (1946; Southampton, C.A.G.). In the post-war years he was attracted to exotic places in search of new subjects.

Although Minton was dedicated to painting, his reputation depended largely on his skill as an illustrator, for example the Corsican illustrations for Time Was Away by Alan Ross (London, 1948). He taught at Camberwell School of Art (1943–6), Central School of Art and Crafts (1946–8) and at the Royal College of Art until 1957, devoting the last part of his life to theatre design. A product of his age, Minton was charismatic, charming and generous but also melancholic and self-destructive. His illustrative style had become the fashionable norm of the period, but as a figurative painter the arrival of abstraction increased feelings of self-doubt, compounding personal problems, which led to his suicide.

John Minton, 1917–1957: Paintings, Drawings, Illustrations and Stage Designs (exh. cat., intro. J. Rothenstein; Reading, Mus. & A.G.; Sheffield, Graves A.G.; 1974)
A Paradise Lost: The Neo-Romantic Imagination in Britain, 1935–55 (exh. cat., ed. D. Mellor; London, Barbican A.G., 1987)
M. Yorke: The Spirit of the Place: Nine Neo-Romantic Artists and their Times (London, 1988), pp. 168–95, passim
F. Spalding: Dance till the Stars Come Down: A Biography of John Minton (London, 1991)
John Minton, 1917–1957: A Selective Retrospective (exh. cat., London, Royal Coll. A.; Bath, Victoria A.G.: Llandudno, Oriel Mostyn; Newtown, Oriel 31; 1994)


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