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Patrick Heron Artist Biography

Patrick Heron was an abstract painter, writer, and designer who made noteworthy contributions to the development of abstract art. His work was devoted to the analysis of natural forms and colors. From his Abstract works, particularly those made up of horizontal or vertical stripes, to his softer-edged shapes, he regularly uses color to express the pleasure of sight as one of the most important human senses.

Patrick Heron was born in 1920 in Headingley, Leeds, in Yorkshire, England. After living in Cornwall his family moved to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire in 1929. In 1933, he began to paint under the influence of Paul Cézanne after visiting the National Gallery in London during a school trip. Five years later, working for Cresta Silks, Patrick Heron designed his first silkscreen. Then in 1937, he became a part-time student at the Slade School of Fine Art in London for two years. In 1940, he worked as an agricultural laborer in Cambridge and Welwyn Garden City for four years before becoming an assistant at Bernard Leach's Pottery in St. Ives in Cornwall, in 1944. In 1945, he moved to Holland Park after marrying Delia Reiss. He was art critic for the 'New English Weekly' for two years before having his first one-man exhibition at Redfern Gallery in London, in 1947. Patrick Heron's early work included many figurative studies such as 'The Gas Stove' (1946) but the painting 'The Boats and the Iron Ladder' (1947) showed the direction he was moving towards with its complex patterning and unusual use of colors. His early work was influenced by Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. 

Patrick Heron first met the American Abstract Expressionists in London in 1956, during an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, and he soon started to paint in an abstract style, as seen in the paintings Square Leaves (1956) and Winter Harbour (1955).

Patrick Heron visited Sydney, Australia, between 1967 and 1973, and he exhibited at the Bonython Gallery. During the Sixties and Seventies, he lectured around the world culminating in a book, 'The Shape of Color', in 1978. 1979 brought about a commission to design two carpets for the foyer of the Cavendish Hotel in London, followed two years later with a commission to design a tapestry for the University of Galway in Eire.

In 1979, his wife died and Patrick Heron could not paint for a few years. In 1989, he returned to Sydney, Australia, and worked from the Art Gallery in New South Wales. Heron produced over 50 paintings while working as Artist in Residence at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and these represented an artist who was still developing in terms of his techniques with which to represent the natural world using unlikely juxtapositions of color and original compositions. In 1996, Patrick Heron collaborated with his son-in-law Julian Feary in setting up an outdoor artwork installation titled Big Painting Sculpture. He continued to paint until the day before he died in 1999 in Cornwall, England. His works can be seen in museums around the world. 

Although working in the European tradition, one can also see aspects of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in Patrick Heron's work. As well as painting and tapestry design, he has also designed a stained glass window for the Tate Gallery in St. Ives and designed a kneeler to encircle the Henry Moore altar at St. Stephen Wallbrook in London.

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