Albert Irvin: Early Works 1950 - 1970

Page 1


3 November – 1 December 2017


6 DUKE STREET ST. JAMES’S LONDON SW1Y 6BN +44 (0)20 7930 9332

Fig. 1: Albert Irvin (photo by Vanessa de Lisle) Front Cover: Untitled, c.1960 (cat. no. 6)


ALBERT IRVIN by Basil Beattie

This exhibition covers the period in Irvin’s development from the early 1950’s to the mid 1960’s and represents a transitional stage. In this period the art climate was becoming very lively. There were more art magazines available and in 1956 the Tate mounted the exhibition - Modern Art in the United States - and again in 1959 staged another show - The New American Painting - seventeen artists were represented. Abstract Expressionism was on view in all its manifestations. The overall feeling of the show was one of directness, and of boldness, that was fearless. Many of these works were on a large scale so the spectator experienced the feeling of being immersed in the paintings. Both of these exhibitions were influential for many British artists and confirmed a turning point in Irvin’s work. Further to these shows, the importance must be emphasised of the exhibitions shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery under the daring and visionary direction of Bryan Robertson. Jackson Pollock 1958, Mark Rothko 1961, Mark Toby 1962, Robert Rauschenberg 1964, and Morris Louis 1965. These shows added greatly to the Zeitgeist of the time. Early in this period Irvin was grappling with abstraction which was figuratively dependent. He was very interested in De Kooning’s paintings particularly the images of Women, which at this time helped to sustain Irvin’s own paintings. Although these works show vestiges of figuration, the dynamics of their making, is as important, if not more so, than the semblance of a figurative reference. At this time he was very aware of the St. Ives painters, many of whom he had met on several visits to Cornwall. The works by Peter Lanyon particularly interested him. When Lanyon took up gliding in 1959 with a view to experiencing the landscape in a new way, he made, not so much evocations of the landscape, but memorable evocations of the experience of gliding itself. Though the circumstances were very different - In the 1960’s Irvin explored remembered experiences of flying, when he was a navigator in the air force during the second world war. His familiarity with maps and seeing the ground from the air, laid out as a flat expanse, stimulated his thoughts about his use and direction of marks, shapes and colour, to evoke a sense of space and travel. Similar qualities also allude to travelling through the urban environment which he experienced on a daily basis. Irvin recognised in Lanyon's paintings, qualities of life and energy which were close to his own ideas of developing an abstract language. But he continued, for a while, to


Fig. 2: Albert Irvin (photo by Emily Anderson)


make paintings that started with a figurative source because it gave structure to the work. Though he recognised he was searching for a language that wasn’t dependent on looking and seeing and strove towards other aspects of human experience, in terms of emotion and feeling. The American art critic Harold Rosenberg in his article ‘The American Action Painters’ said, “What was going on the canvas was not a picture but an event and the image would be the result of this encounter.” Pollock spoke of the image in his drip paintings, as being a result of where he had been. Irvin said of his large works at a later period, “The marks that accrue are like entries in a diary and say, ‘Where were you at 10.30?’ and answer ‘ I was down here’. ‘And at 4.30? ’ I was up here’, and so on.”The marks are like verbs of a language and communicate action. But they carry import too. They are like pockets of experience.’ Ideas of an intellectual nature only come to fruition when the time is right and they coincide with events and opportunities of a practical nature. This certainly seemed to be the case with Irvin when he got the opportunity to move from his domestic sized studio, in his house, to a large warehouse sized studio at St.Katharine Dock towards the end of the 60’s, allowing him to make large works, that up until then, he could only have imagined. Coupled with this change of working space, came shortly after, the development and availability of acrylic paint for artists. This development had a far reaching affect on Irvin’s painting practice. These two factors of working in much larger studio where he could exploit the possibilities that resulted from working with the properties of the new water based acrylic paint, which ideally suited Irvin’s vision and his spirit of making. These changes were important in contributing to the development and blossoming of his spectacular later work, for which he became so well known.


1. Caterpillars on a Leaf c.1952 Oil on panel 61 x 37 cm Signed lower right, signed and titled verso


2. Figures Moving in Rain 1954 Oil on canvas 48.5 x 39.5 cm Signed and dated lower right LITERATURE: MOORHOUSE, Paul. Albert Irvin - Life to Painting. London, 1998, ill. p. 37. 7

3. Moon c.1955 Oil on panel 25 x 28.5 cm Signed lower centre, signed and titled verso 8

4. Untitled c.1955 Oil on panel 122 x 61 cm Signed lower right 9

5. Cross Place c.1960 Oil on paper 56.5 x 38 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right, titled verso 10

6. Untitled c.1960 Oil on canvas 152 x 101.5 cm Signed with studio stamp verso 11

7. Untitled c.1960 Gouache on paper 36 x 25.3 cm Signed upper left 12

8. Untitled c.1960 Oil on canvas 91.5 x 76.5 cm Signed with studio stamp verso 13


9. Sky c.1960 Oil on hardboard 122 x 183 cm Signed lower left, signed and titled verso 15

10. Night c.1962 Oil on canvas 76 x 51 cm Signed and titled verso


11. Open Sky 1962 Oil on canvas 76 x 51 cm Signed and titled verso LITERATURE: MOORHOUSE, Paul. Albert Irvin - Life to Painting London, 1998, ill. p. 133. 17

12. First Move 1962 Oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm Signed and titled verso 18

13. Love Lane c.1962 Oil on paper 56.3 x 38.3 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right, titled verso 19

14. Enclosed (I) 1962 Oil on canvas 122 x 101.5 cm Signed and titled verso 20

15. North Side Li 1965 Oil on paper 70 x 52 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right, titled verso 21

16. Day Full of Time 1962 Oil on canvas 152 x 126.5 cm Signed and titled verso LITERATURE: MOORHOUSE, Paul. Albert Irvin - Life to Painting. London, 1998, ill. p. 54. 22

17. Cell 1963 Oil on canvas 122 x 102 cm Signed and titled verso


18. Around the Square 1963 Oil on paper 56.5 x 38 cm Signed with studio stamp verso LITERATURE: MOORHOUSE, Paul. Albert Irvin - Life to Painting. London, 1998, ill. p. 134. 24

19. Untitled 1962 Oil on paper 56.7 x 38.2 cm Signed and dated lower centre


20. Black Moves 1964 Oil on canvas 127 x 76.5 cm Signed verso LITERATURE: MOORHOUSE, Paul. Albert Irvin - Life to Painting. London, 1998, ill. p. 137. 26

21. North Side 1 c.1965 Oil on paper 56 x 38 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right, titled verso


22. North Side 2 1965 Oil on paper 69.8 x 52 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right 28

23. Morning Rise c.1965 Oil on canvas 76 x 51 cm Signed with studio stamp verso 29

24. Echoing Red c.1965 Oil on canvas 122.5 x 81.5 cm Signed and titled verso 30

25. Intersection 1965 Oil on paper 56 x 38.3 cm Signed with studio stamp lower right, titled verso 31

26. Untitled c.1965 Oil on canvas 116.5 x 81 cm Signed with studio stamp verso 32

27. Red Bar c.1965 Oil on canvas 102 x 76.5 cm Signed and titled verso 33

28. 6 Dozen 28 c.1965 Oil on canvas 91.5 x 71 cm Signed with studio stamp, titled verso 34

29. Entry 1966 Oil on canvas 152 x 101.5 cm Signed and titled verso 35

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29.

Caterpillars on a Leaf Figures Moving in Rain Moon Untitled Cross Place Untitled Untitled Untitled Sky Night Open Sky First Move Love Lane Enclosed (I) North Side Li Day Full of Time Cell Around the Square Untitled Black Moves North Side 1 North Side 2 Morning Rise Echoing Red Intersection Untitled Red Bar 6 Dozen 28 Entry

All works come for the Estate of the Artist 36


ALBERT IRVIN OBE, RA 1922–2015 1940 Northampton School of Art 1946-50 Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, University of London 1962-83 Teaching at Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, London 1968 Arts Council Award to visit USA 1975 Arts Council Major Award 1998 Elected Royal Academician 1999 Elected Honorary member of Royal West of England Academy 2012 Honorary Fellowship, Plymouth College of Art 2013 OBE award for services to the visual arts


Albert Irvin: Early Works 1950-1970, Whitford Fine Art, London Albert Irvin: Crosstown, Advanced Graphics, London The Complete Prints, Atkinson Gallery, Millfield, Somerset Albert Irvin, Borris House, Barrow River Arts Festival, Ireland 2012 Albert Irvin: 90th Year Celebration Paintings and Prints, Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames Albert Irvin at 90: a survey exhibition, Clifford Chance, London Fidelio, Gimpel Fils, London Royal Oak, Monoprints, Advanced Graphics London, London Print Retrospective, University Gallery and Baring Wing, University of 2011 Northumbria, Newcastle Inextinguishable, Gimpel Fils, London Albert Irvin RA: From Holyrood to Stratford, Sir Hugh Casson Room, Royal Academy, London New Work, Gimpel Fils, London 2010 Print Retrospective, Advanced Graphics London/ Kings Place, London Tabard: Albert Irvin, Churchill College, Cambridge Albert Irvin: A Retrospective, University Gallery and Baring Wing, University 2009 of Northumbria, Newcastle Albert Irvin: Peintures Récentes, Galerie Gimpel & Müller, Paris Albert Irvin, Manton Wing staircase display, Tate Britain, London 2008 Albert Irvin: Recent Paintings, Peppercanister, Dublin Recent Prints, Advanced Graphics London Albert Irvin: A Retrospective, Kings Place Gallery, London Albert Irvin: Six Paintings, Kings Place Foyer, London 2007-08 Urban Journey, Gimpel Fils, London New Works, Peppercanister Gallery, Dublin 2006 2005-06 New Editions and Monoprints, Advanced Graphics, London 2004-05 Midsummer, Gimpel Fils, London 2017 2013


Albert Irvin: Paintings and Prints, Storey Gallery, Lancaster Albert Irvin: Recent Paintings, Peppercanister Gallery, Dublin Four Score, Gimpel Fils, London 2002 Malerei, Galerie Stuhler, Berlin Prints, Advance Graphics, London Paintings & Prints 1991-2001, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen 2001 Prints & Paintings 1980-2000, Advanced Graphics, London 2000 1999 Royal West of England Academy, Bristol Orion Gallery, Brussels 1998 Abbaye Saint-AndrĂŠ, Centre d'art contemporain, Meymac Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax Works on paper - touring German museums Gimpel Fils, London, celebrating the launch of Albert Irvin - Life to Painting, monograph, pub. Lund Humphries, London 1997 Galerie Stuhler, Berlin Galerie Wassermann, Berlin 1996-97 Gimpel Fils, London 1996 Millfield School, Somerset Oriel Theatre, Clwyd 1995 Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin Original Print Gallery, Dublin 1994 Powell Moya Partnership, London Gimpel Fils, London Wasserman Galerie, Munich Chapter Gallery, Cardiff Woodlands Art Gallery, London 1993 Campo Vlaamse Kaai, Antwerp Bodilly Gallery, Cambridge Flowers East, London Design for Diversions Dance Company 1992 Galeria Punto, Valencia Chelmsford Cathedral Festival Oxford Gallery Galerie Klaus Lupke, Frankfurt Gimpel Fils, London Wolf At The Door, Penzance 1991 Playhouse Gallery, Harlow Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University Flowers East, London 1990 Serpentine Gallery, London Gimpel Fils, London Spacex Gallery, Exeter Oriel and Chapter Galleries, Cardiff Castlefield Gallery, Manchester Gallery Monochrome, Brussels 2003


1989 1988 1987 1986 1985



1982 1981 1980

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh Carine Campo Gallery, Antwerp Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York Carine Campo Gallery, Antwerp Gimpel Fils, London Hendriks Gallery, Dublin Coventry Gallery, Sydney Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny Arcade Gallery, Harrogate Gimpel Fils, London Demarcation, Edinburgh Festival Jersey Arts Council Gallery Third Eye Centre Gallery, Glasgow Aberdeen Art Gallery Ikon Gallery, Birmingham Gimpel Fils, London Goldsmiths College Gallery, London Manchester Polytechnic Gallery Acme Gallery, London Bede Gallery, Jarrow

SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Aberdeen Art Gallery Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Arts Council of Great Britain Birmingham City Art Gallery Blackburn Art Gallery British Council Chase Manhattan Bank Contemporary Art Society Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin Manchester City Art Gallery Mobil Oil Mappin Gallery, Sheffield NatWest Group Art Collection New England Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales Pensecola Museum, Florida Schindler Collection, ZuĚˆrich St'dtische Kunstsammlungen, Ludwigshafen Stoke City Art Gallery Stuyvesant Collection, Amsterdam Tate Gallery, London Victoria and Albert Museum, London Wolverhampton Art Gallery 39

© Whitford Fine Art, London All Rights Reserved All paintings © Irvin Estate Text © Basil Beattie

Photography all cat. ill. by Mario Bettella, London. Exhibition coordination: Gabriel Toso, Whitford Fine Art, London. Produced by Artmedia Press Ltd, London. Our profound thanks go to Celia Irvin and Cilla Hashmi–Irvin for their invaluable cooperation in organising the exhibition. We are grateful to Mr René Gimpel and Ms Victoria Long of Gimpel Fils, London for their assistance during the preparation of this catalogue.


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