Independent Gallery


John Hoyland

John Hoyland b.Sheffield, Yorkshire, England 1934 - 2011

John Hoyland was among that generation of young British artists who benefited from the new post war welfare state. Free education to the highest of levels was now open to all.

Born into a working class family, he was educated at Sheffield School of Arts and Crafts from the age of eleven before moving to the College of Art. In 1956 he was accepted into the Royal Academy Schools. Like every young art student he visited the Modern Art in the United States staged at the Tate during the same year.

Upon graduation the then President of the Royal Academy, Sir Charles Wheeler, painter of society ladies and Burmese beauties, famously commanded that young Hoyland’s paintings, all abstracts, be removed from the walls of the Diploma Galleries. It was only through the intervention of the Acting Keeper who reminded him that their student also painted ‘properly’. He did landscapes. The strength of his earlier figurative work had saved had the day.

Within months he was exhibiting a show of large abstracts at Situation, an exhibition largely curated by the artists themselves, aided by critic Lawrence Alloway and then in 1964 at the New Generation at the Whitechapel, a sort of Who’s Who of young British talent at that time.

As with many British artists, the 60s were a crucial decade for John Hoyland. It was then that made his first trip to America traveling on a Peter Stuyvesant Foundation bursary. There he met Robert Motherwell with whom he became great friends, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and many other abstract artists. In 1964 his first solo show was held at the Marlborough New London Gallery. At that time simple shapes of high-key colour and a flat picture surface characterized his work.

In the 70s he progressed to candy colours and less rigid forms as exemplified in a series of screenprints called The New York Suite inspired by his frequent visits to the city that never sleeps in the early years of that decade.

John Hoyland was constantly re-inventing his art. He preferred it not to be known as ‘abstract’ but rather non-figurative. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1991 and ironically in 1999, Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy Schools.