Jeffrey Steele

1931 – 2021


Jeffrey Steele (1931–2021) was an abstract painter. In Paris (1959) he encountered the work of artists working in the mode of geometric abstraction, such as Victor Vasarely (1906–97), Max Bill (1908–94) and Josef Albers (1888–1976), and adopted a lifelong abstract approach. For eight years he worked purely in black and white and was identified with the Op-art movement. He incorporated other colours into his work in the 1970s.

His work has been exhibited in London, Paris, New York, Milan, the Venice Biennale (1986), and elsewhere in Europe and the Americas. He has participated in more than 100 group exhibitions and had 17 one-man shows, the first at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1961. His works are in a number of public collections in the UK, including Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Arts Council and the Department of the Environment, and in other countries. Steele's painting Gespenstische Gestalt (1961–62) was shown in the exhibition "Dynamo, Un Siècle de Lumière et de Mouvement dans l'Art 1913/2013" at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2013.

After he had gained a reputation as a practising artist in the early 1960s Steele was accepted by the college authorities with which he had previously tussled and he began lecturing in fine art in Cardiff, Barry and Newport. He then lectured at Portsmouth Polytechnic from May 1968 until December 1989.

He was a member of the Portsmouth Sinfonia experimental orchestra organised by Gavin Bryars for BA students and staff in Fine Art at Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1970, playing trombone. He can be heard on the BA show invitation 45rpm of the William Tell Overture.

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