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Gillian Ayres

(British, 1930-2018)

Gillian Ayres was a British abstract painter and printmaker born in London in 1930. She is known for her contributions to the abstract expressionist movement, and was awarded the Blackstone Prize in 1988, the Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award in 1989, and a Turner Prize nomination also in 1989.

Ayres grew up in London and studied at the Camberwell School of Art from 1946 to 1950. She worked at the AIA Gallery in Soho until 1959, when she decided to pursue a teaching career. In 1978, she became the first female teacher in the UK to become head of a department at an art school, specifically the painting department at the Winchester School of Art. She left teaching in 1981 and moved to northwest Wales to paint full time. By 1987, Ayres moved from Wales to a 15th century cottage on the Devon-Cornwall border.

Her early works were typically painted with thin acrylic paint, while later works in oil paint use thick impasto, brighter colours, and more complex forms. Ayres has been featured in over 25 solo exhibitions, including at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; Serpentine Gallery, London; and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. Her work is in the collections of the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Gillian Ayres