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Patrick Heron: England's Best Painter of the 20th Century

By Edited Apr 27, 2015 0 0


Many Artists lead a bohemian existence. An example is the famous painter Picasso who had sexual relations with girls who could be his daughters and in one case his granddaughter. Another artist was inspired only by a naked woman. However there is one artist who lived a normal life. He showed to the world that one need not be eccentric to become a great painter. His name is Patrick Heron. He is regarded as England’s greatest painter of the 20th century. This is no mean achievement.

Early Life

 Patrick was born at the turn of the last century after the end of the First Great War in 1920. His father TM Heron was a Christian socialist and this belief rubbed off on the young Patrick.  TM Heron founded Cresta Silks a textile company and this gave his son Patrick a chance to develop his inherent talent of design and art. Patrick at the young age of 14 designed many pieces of textiles that show cased his genius.

 Patrick lived his early years at St Ives from 1925–30.   Later he studied art at the Slade School 1937–9.  This gave him the chance to take up his love of painting in a big way. In 1939 the Second World War broke out and Patrick registered his opposition to the war as a conscientious objector.   This action of Patrick Heron was not liked by the government as well as many people who felt that Patrick was shirking his duty to the motherland in failing to fight the menace of Hitler. His opposition to the war was on moral grounds and he spent the war years not in the army, but working as a labourer on a farm.

Start of his Painting Career

 The end of the Second World War in 1945 gave him the chance to resume his painting career. His second career started effectively in 1945 after he settled in London. This was the period when the work of Braque which was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1946 deeply impressed him.  The works of Braque and Matisse influenced his early style of painting. He himself held a one man exhibition in London at the Redfern Gallery in 1947.  He also later held an exhibition of his paintings at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in 1960 at New York.

 By now Patrick had made a name as a painter of repute and his reputation led him to be appointed Art critic to the New Statesman and Nation . He worked in this capacity from1947–50. He was also the London correspondent to Arts (New York) from 1955–58.

Abstract Art and Patrick

 Patrick now turned to abstract art  and painted some stupendous abstract art paintings. Famous were his twelve paintings exhibited at São Paulo Bienal 1953–4.  In 1956 he moved to Zennor, Cornwall.   Awards now began to come his way and he was Awarded First Prize in the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition 1959. He also authored the book The Changing Forms of Art in 1955.The abstract paintings of Patrick are distinguished with soft edged shapes and vibrant colors. 67 of his paintings are held in Public galleries in England.

Personal Life

Patrick married his childhood love Della Reiss and from all accounts it was a happy marriage. The recurrent theme that a painter can only be inspired by a woman was given the burial by Patrick Heron who was not a polygamous man. Patrick continued painting till the last and died in 1999. There is no doubt that he was England’s greatest painter of the 20th century.



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