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).

To read an essay on Hoyland’s life click here > >


Born Sheffield, October 12, first child of Kenneth and Kathleen Hoyland. His father is a tailor


Attends Sheffield School of Art & Crafts (Junior Art Department) instead of following grammar school education. A fellow pupil is Brian Fielding, who becomes one of Hoyland’s closest friends and later a formidable artist in his own right. Together they would ‘discuss Art with a capital A’ and ramble into the night around post-war Sheffield


Studies fine art at Sheffield College of Art, where emphasis is on figurative painting – no awareness of abstract art. Taught academic draughtsmanship but given no sense of possibilities of drawing; teachers uninspired with exception of the excellent Eric Jones. Reads Auden, Eliot, etc. Affected by Turner watercolours in Graves Art Gallery and Paul Nash’s monochromatic ‘Winter Sea’ with its abstract horizontal planes


Visits St Cyr in South of France, near de Staël’s Cassis. Makes many topographical paintings


(January ’56) Influenced by exhibition ‘Modern Art in the United States’ at Tate Gallery, London, his first encounter with American abstract painting. Especially affected by the Rothko and Pollock. Similarly excited by Staél’s memorial exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in early summer 1956. Studies at Royal Academy Schools, London; begins to draw seriously from the model and to paint figures. Interest in early Matisse, ‘brown and white’ pictures. Friendship with Paul Huxley, Basil Beattie, Keith Arnatt and Oliver Bradbury (who later becomes a poet) and Patrick Caulfield, who becomes a close friend


Paints land- and townscapes of Sheffield area, influenced by de Staël. Also painting still lifes that suggest growing interest in abstraction. Attends annual Summer School at Scarborough where Victor Pasmore, Harry Thubron and Tom Hudson teach colour, structure and form; here he experiments with colour. Visits south of France and Adriatic Coast, painting landscapes between Marseilles and Toulon; also Italy – the Adriatic coast, Milan, Arezzo, Florence and Assisi. Greatly affected by quality of life and light in Italy and France after greyness of Sheffield


Joins William Turnbull’s evening classes at Central School of Art, London; working mainly from still life but with expanded references, he explores the possibilities of abstracting from actual objects. Marries Airi Karkkainen; birth of son Jeremy


Entire Diploma show of abstract paintings taken down by order of President of Royal Academy, Sir Charles Wheeler, but Diploma awarded on strength of earlier figurative work. Begins teaching part-time on basic design course at Hornsey College of Art under Maurice de Sausmarez; colleagues include Alan Green, Bridget Riley and Brian Fielding. Also at Oxford School of Art. First of several visits to wife’s native Finland


Exhibits large-scale paintings in the two ‘Situation’ exhibitions at RBA Gallery, London, and Marlborough New London Gallery


Teaching at Luton College of Art and Hornsey College of Art


Studio at Primrose Hill, North London


Begins teaching at Croydon School of Art and Chelsea School of Art, London. Meets William Tucker, and sees Paul Huxley regularly (who introduces him to curator Bryan Robertson)


Deeply impressed by Anthony Caro exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery. Meets Helen Frankenthaler


Selected by Bryan Robertson for ‘New Generation’ exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery. Travels to New York for first time on a Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Bursary; visits various leading artists’ studios (Motherwell, Newman and Rothko) and sees unexhibited canvases by Morris Louis. Meets Noland, Feeley and Olitski; also Clement Greenberg, who introduces him to Hans Hofmann via two small canvases at New York’s Kootz Gallery. Builds studio in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey


Included by Robertson in ‘Private View’ (Thames & Hudson), a book surveying British contemporary art scene; also selected for ‘The English Eye’, Robertson’s personal anthology of modern British art for Marlborough-Gerson Gallery in New York. Principal Lecturer at Chelsea School of Art until 1969; occasional teaching visits to Royal Academy Schools. Contact with Philip King, Tim Scott, William Tucker and other ‘New Generation’ sculptors


(1967) One-man show, ‘Paintings 1960-67’, at Whitechapel Gallery. Makes first works in New York, in Peter Stroud’s studio, and has first exhibition there at Robert Elkon Gallery. (Summer 1968) Works in studio of John Griefen. Spends time with Larry Poons and Ronnie Langfeldt


Separates from wife, and subsequently divorces. Begins working for part of each week at a new studio (a disused chapel) in Market Lavington, Wiltshire. Included in ‘The New Generation: 1968’ at Whitechapel Gallery, London


Joins Waddington Galleries, London, and has first of several annual exhibitions at Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York. Travels to Brazil and the Caribbean with Anthony Caro; represents Great Britain, with Caro, at the São Paolo Biennale. In Trinidad meets American jazz singer, Eloise Laws, and shares apartment with her during regular working trips to New York (until 1973). Friendship with Hubert Laws, jazz flautist and composer, and Ronnie Laws, saxophonist and composer. Meets Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and many leading jazz musicians of Motown (to whom Eloise was signed for a time); spends time in Detroit


Frequent trips to New York. Continues to see Noland, Frankenthaler, Motherwell and Greenberg. Working in New York


Made Charles A. Dana Professor of Fine Art at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York


Travels to Provincetown with Robert Motherwell. Returns to live and work more or less permanently in London and Wiltshire


Makes three lithographs with Ian Lawson and another series in Verona


Visiting lecturer at St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools


Visiting lecturer at the Slade School of Art


Selector and exhibitor, Royal Academy Silver Jubilee Exhibition, London


Artist in Residence, Studio School, New York (summer); paints many small works on paper


Retrospective exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, London. Artist in Residence, Melbourne University. Visits Bombay, Hong Kong and Thailand en route with Patrick Caulfield. Rome Scholarship Committee (printmaking) until 1989


Co-curator with art historian Tim Hilton for the Arts Council’s Hayward Annual Exhibition, London. Moves to new studio in Charterhouse Square, London


Working in Los Angeles. Wins John Moores Painting Prize with ‘Broken Bride’ at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool


Elected ARA (Associate of the Royal Academy). Makes prints and monotypes with Atelier Lacourière et Frélaut, France; screenprints monotypes with Advanced Graphics, London, and etched monotypes with Jack Shirreff at 107 Workshop, Wiltshire


Makes ceramics in Todi, Umbria, Italy, invited by Piero Dorazio


Designs sets and costumes for ‘Zanza’ at Sadler’s Wells and The Alhambra Theatre with Rambert Dance Company; choreography by Richard Alston, music by Nigel Osborne, lighting by Peter Mumford


Travels to Trinidad, Antigua and Jamaica. Wins Athena Art Award


Travels in United States. Selects and curates Hans Hofmann exhibition at Tate Gallery. Sailing trip in eastern Mediterranean with Patrick Caulfield, Janet Nathan and Beverley Heath


Visits Ken Draper and Jean Macalpine in Minorca with Beverley Heath; and Jamaica and Italy with Heath. Makes etchings in Milan with Giorgio Upiglio at Grafica Uno


Elected Royal Academician


Invited guest at Thupelo workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa; makes drawings of plants and roots. Visits Motherwell in Greenwich and New York


Travels to the Caribbean, and to Sydney, Australia, visiting Bali, Indonesia, on return journey


First visit to Murano, Venice, where he makes glass sculptures


Exhibits Bali paintings at Theo Waddington Gallery


Travels to Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman Island; Cozumel, Mexico; and Key West, Florida. Third visit to Bali


Visits San Juan, Puerto Rico; Barbados, Antigua, St Martin, Martinique and Virgin Islands

Makes a second visit to Murano, Venice, to make glass sculptures. Visits Florence and Cuba


Appointed Professor of Painting at Royal Academy Schools. Retrospective at Royal Academy, London


Mural Design for Metro in Rome, Italy. Retrospective exhibition at Graves Art Gallery in his hometown of Sheffield. Shows regularly at Beaux Arts, London, Nevill Keating Pictures, London, and Lemon Tree Gallery, Truro, Cornwall


Work included in ‘Formal Situations: Abstractions in Britain, 1960-70’ at Tate Liverpool (April to November). ‘Sky Chariots’, 2003, nominated for Jerwood Painting Prize


‘Art in the 1960s, This was Tomorrow’ at Tate Britain (then touring to Birmingham, Australia and New Zealand)


‘The Trajectory of a Fallen Angel’, one-man exhibition at Tate St Ives. Mel Gooding’s monograph ‘John Hoyland’ is published (Thames & Hudson)


Marries Beverley Heath


Publication of Andrew Lambirth’s ‘John Hoyland: Scatter the Devils’ (Unicorn Press)


50 paintings and works on paper enter the collection of the Yale Center for British Art as part of the Lurie gift. Exhibition celebrating the gift (including work by Patrick Caulfield, Howard Hodgkin, R.B. Kitaj, Ian Stephenson and John Walker) opens at Yale (September 16)


(July 31) Dies of heart failure. Eulogies at his funeral include those of his fellow Academicians and friends Ian Ritchie, Anthony Caro and Mick Moon. His mother, ‘without whom he would quite possibly not even have been an artist’ (Jeremy Hoyland) dies within weeks of her son, aged 101



Still from 1979 BBC film ‘Six Days in September’ (Photo © BBC)


John aged 11 at home in Sheffield, VE Day 1944

John aged 11 at home in Sheffield

John aged 11 at home in Sheffield


Hoyland (second from right) with fellow Sheffield School of Art students and tutor Eric Jones (right) at Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, c1953

Hoyland (second from right) with fellow Sheffield School of Art students and tutor Eric Jones (right) at Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, c1953

As a student at the RA Schools aged 23

As a student at the RA Schools aged 23



John with Anthony Caro on the beach in Brazil, 1969

John with Anthony Caro on the beach in Brazil, 1969


John at his Oppidans Road studio in Primrose Hill, London

John at his Oppidans Road studio in Primrose Hill, London (Photo © Jorge Lewinski/Bridgeman Images)

Tony Caro in Brazil photographed by John

Tony Caro in Brazil photographed by John


John at Robert Motherwell's in Connecticut in 1978 (Photo © Renate Ponsold)

John at Robert Motherwell’s in Connecticut in 1978 (Photo © Renate Ponsold)

John with Helen Frankenthaler at Langan's Brasserie in the late 1970s

John with Helen Frankenthaler at Langan’s Brasserie in the late 1970s



John Hoyland with HRH Princess Anne in c1980

John Hoyland with HRH Princess Anne in c1980

John in his London studio in 1982 with, left, 'Say When' (14.11.82)

John in his London studio in 1982 with, left, ‘Say When’ (14.11.82)




With Beverley Heath in Venice in 1984

With Beverley Heath in Venice in 1984

With Patrick Caulfield in Turkey in 1988

With Patrick Caulfield in Turkey in 1988

John Hoyland with artist and friend Brian Wall in the 1980s

John Hoyland with artist and friend Brian Wall in the 1980s


With close friend artist Ken Draper in Menorca in 1989

With close friend artist Ken Draper in Menorca in 1989


In 2006 (Photo © Toby Madden)

In 2006 (Photo © Toby Madden)

Pete Townsend & John Hoyland at the RA. © Dafydd Jones

Pete Townsend & John Hoyland at the RA (Photo © Dafydd Jones)


With his mother Kathleen in 2005

With his mother Kathleen in 2005

With Damien Hirst at Hoyland's London studio in 2009 (Photo © Jillian Edelstein)

With Damien Hirst at Hoyland’s London studio in 2009 (Photo © Jillian Edelstein)

John with wife Beverley in 2009 (Photo © Derrick Santini)

John with wife Beverley in 2009 (Photo © Derrick Santini)