Patrick Heron (1920 - 1999) was born in Headingley Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London between 1937 and 1939. At the outbreak of the Second World War he worked as an agricultural labourer in Cambridge before becoming an assistant to the potter, Bernard Leach, in St Ives Cornwall. In 1945 he moved to London and returned to painting, having his first solo exhibition two years later. In 1956, he relocated to Cornwall where he lived and worked in a house called Eagles Nest, situated in a spectacular location on the Penwith peninsula. It was at this stage that his earlier figurative paintings quickly transmuted into abstraction. His paintings, which ranged from stripes to colour fields, were a direct response to the light, colour and shapes that he encountered every day in this idyllic setting.
Known foremost as a painter, Heron also worked in variety of media, from the silk scarves he designed aged 14 for his father's company Cresta and stained-glass windows to prints and drawings. His earliest graphic works include several monoprints made in the 1950s. Throughout his lifetime Heron made use of numerous media including etching, lithography and screenprinting to create a small body of printed work. His first major print series, a set of 18 screenprints made with Chris Prater at the famous Kelpra Studio, was published by Leslie Waddington in 1970 and was followed by a further series of 24 screenprints in 1973. The following year Alan Cristea, excited by the colour potential of intaglio printing, introduced Heron to etching. In the final year of his life Heron made his last body of work, a series of eighteen etchings entitled The Brushworks Series, 1998 - 99. Examples of the vast majority of his prints are in the collection of Tate, London.
As well as being at the forefront of English twentieth-century abstract painting, Heron was also an acclaimed writer and critic. He began writing and lecturing about developments in British and American art from the mid-1940s, contributing to The New English Weekly and later becoming the art critic for The New Statesman, Nation and the London correspondent for Arts Digest New York. He wrote several books, including The Changing Forms of Art (1955) and studies of Maurice De Vlaminck (1947), Ivon Hitchens (1955), and Georges Braque (1958).
Heron won the Grand Prize at the John Moores Prize Exhibition in Liverpool in 1959 and the silver medal at the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1965. He served as a Trustee of the Tate Gallery, London, from 1980-87 and received Honorary Doctorates from Exeter and Kent Universities, Winchester School of Art, where he made his first screenprinted editions, and the Royal College of Art, London, amongst others. Heron was awarded a CBE in 1977.
Retrospectives and major exhibitions of Heron's work include Tate St Ives, touring to Turner Contemporary, Margate (2018); National Portrait Gallery, London (2013); Tate Gallery, London (1998); Camden Arts Centre, London, touring to Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston; and Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno (1994); Barbican Art Gallery, London (1985); University of Texas at Austin Art Museum (1978); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1972); Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1968); and The Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham (1952).
Patrick Heron died aged 79 in 1999, in Zennor, Cornwall.