Artist biography

Welsh painter and printmaker. Although born in Wales, he grew up in Glasgow. He first produced abstract paintings in 1930 while a pupil at Glasgow School of Art (1927–31) and, despite discouragement, continued to do so secretly at the Royal College of Art (1932–4), inspired by visits to Paris. He was a peripheral member of the Surrealist group in London, although his work had Cubist elements. In 1938 he moved to South Africa to teach at the Natal Technical College in Durban, where he lived until he became an engineer with the South African army in North Africa and Italy (1942–5). He then began to paint anti-war subjects, depicting violent allegories of World War II in a style that was an idiosyncratic development of Vorticism. In part abstract, and in lurid colours, these were sometimes based on specific incidents.

In the 1950s Evans examined the expressive power of abstract shape and became a leading British printmaker, reviving the technique of mezzotint for large-scale prints. His six aquatints Vertical Suite in Black (1958) used shapes from primitive art, while the Pentaptych mezzotints (1961) shared the geometrical abstraction of his paintings of the 1960s. Evans's large post-war paintings were often based on the patterns made by crowds of people and were intended as a public art on an architectural scale. His work became increasingly abstract and geometrical but retained a feeling of confrontation or movement by means of black outline and colour contrast.

Bibliography
Merlyn Evans (exh. cat., intro. R. H. Wilenski; London, Whitechapel A.G., 1956)
The Graphic Work of Merlyn Evans (exh. cat. by R. Erskine and B. Robertson, London, V&A, 1972)
Merlyn Evans, 1910–1973 (exh. cat. by F. Laws, Cardiff, N. Mus., 1974)
The Political Paintings of Merlyn Evans (exh. cat. by D. F. Jenkins and M. Evans, London, Tate, 1985)

DAVID FRASER JENKINS

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