One of England’s finest abstract painters and once described as ‘Europe’s answer to Mark Rothko’ John Hoyland has died aged 76. A painter and printmaker Hoyland’s was known for his powerful and richly coloured work, built up from layers of thick paint.
Hoyland was an advocate of British abstract art and counted Anthony Caro among his closest friends as well as an enduring influence on him. He was a constant supporter of succeeding generations of younger abstract artists. During the 1960’s he taught at the Chelsea School of Art, where he met Patrick Caulfield, who became one of his closest friends, and then at the Slade and Royal Academy art schools.
John Hoyland was born in Sheffield to a working-class family. From the age of 11 he went to the Sheffield School of Arts and Crafts. It was here that he met his first great friend in art, Brian Fielding, and began his passionate engagement with painting.
In 1956 entered the Royal Academy Schools. Unfortunately the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Charles Wheeler, ordered his paintings to be removed from the diploma show although he was still awarded his diploma. However within months, Hoyland was exhibiting with some of the best British artists in a show organised by the artist themselves which kick started the 60s art scene in London.
Visiting New York in 1964 he met many of his heroes in abstract art and stuck up a close friendship with Robert Motherwell, as well as meeting Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Kenneth Noland.
From 1967 he began to spend more time in New York, and visiting the Caribbean with his friend the sculptor Anthony Caro. His one-man exhibition in the spring of that year consolidated Hoyland's reputation, and established him without question as one of the best abstract painters of his generation anywhere in the world.
He travelled more and more, especially after meeting his second wife, the Jamaican model Beverley Heath, in the early 1980s. His art in this period reflected the tropical countries they visited, as well as the loss of friends including Patrick Caulfield and Terry Frost. His late work can be seen as the fruition of all that preceded it, and was considered by many to be his best.