John Hoyland (1934 – 2011)

Hoyland’s work in his finals show so shocked the Royal Academy Schools that the then president of the RA ordered it off the walls. Born in Sheffield in 1934, John Hoyland exhibited his first fully abstract paintings in 1960 with the influential Situation group just months after leaving the Royal Academy. Over the next decade his career took off and in 1964 he was selected as one of curator Bryan Robertson’s New Generation artists for his exhibition of young talent at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was a generation that included Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Paul Huxley, Allen Jones and Bridget Riley.

In 1967 Hoyland had his first solo museum show at Whitechapel, an event the critic Mel Gooding has described as ‘a defining moment in the history of British abstract painting’ which ‘established him without question as one of the two or three best abstract painters of his generation anywhere in the world.’ Two years he later represented Great Britain with Anthony Caro at the 1969 São Paulo Biennale, Brazil.

Between 1964 and 1973 Hoyland was a frequent visitor to the United States, where he also worked in the late 1960s, bringing him into close contact with the New York art world, including critic Clement Greenberg and artists Barnett Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Robert Motherwell, Larry Poons and Mark Rothko, many of whom became close friends. His work has been the subject of retrospectives at the Serpentine Gallery (1979-80), the Royal Academy of Arts, London (1999) and Tate St Ives (2006).