Patrick Heron was a British abstract artist and art critic. He is recognised as one of the leading painters of his generation.
Born in Leeds in 1920, Heron spent his early childhood in Cornwall, before settling in Welwyn Garden City. Son of a textiles manufacturer, Heron started his artistic life designing for his father’s company, before attending the Slade School of Art part time in 1937. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Heron’s artistic development was put on hold. As a conscientious objector, Heron was sent to work as an agricultural labourer in Cambridgeshire for four years, before he travelled back to Cornwall to assist at Bernard Leach’s Pottery in 1944. It was here that he rubbed shoulders with leading British artists of the St Ives School of Art such as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.
Heron first saw George Braque’s paintings at the Tate Gallery in 1946. Braque’s abstract forms and compositions deeply impressed on Heron and he produced his first solo exhibition at the Redfern Gallery a year later. A decade later, in 1956, Heron saw the first group exhibition of American Abstract Expressionists at the Tate Gallery. Heron highly revered their style, scale, colour and interlocking forms and these influences became evident in Heron’s paintings in the mid to late 1950’s. He continued to develop this abstract style in is later career and returned to his home in Cornwall.
Heron was also a successful writer and art critic and published essays on many of his contemporaries such as Picasso, Braque, Klee, Cezanne, and Nicholson. In his article ’Murder of the art Schools’ in 1971 Heron championed the autonomy of the British Art Schools. He also published a series of essays over the late 1960s defending British modernism in light of the perceived superiority of American artists.
Heron continued to paint until the day before he died, in March 1999. His paintings are held in collections across the UK and internationally.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1947 Redfern Gallery, London [First solo exhibition]
1952 Wakefield City Art Gallery
1960 Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York
1960 The Waddington Galleries, London
1963 Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich
1965 Hume Tower, Edinburgh
1965 VIII Biennal de São Paulo: Grã-Bretanha 1965: Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo
1967 The Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh
1968 Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
1972 Whitechapel Art Gallery
1973 Bonython Art Gallery, Paddington, Sydney, NSW
1978 The University of Texas Art Museum, Austin, Texas
1985 Barbican Art Gallery
1990 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1994 Camden Arts Centre
1998 Tate Britain