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Biography

Born in Alexandria in 1928 to a military family who moved back to England in 1932. Studied at the Guildford Art School (1945-49, interrupted by two years’ National Service) and at the Slade School of Art (1949-54), at the time when William Coldstream had just taken over as Director. Although already married in 1951, he met Paula Rego in 1953, and moved with her to Portugal in 1957, marrying her in 1959, and only returning definitively to the UK in 1974. He taught at the Corsham, Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art between 1964-67, but was diagnosed with slowly developing MS in 1966. He died in 1998.

His work before 1974, of which little survives, showed initially the influence of Coldstream’s teaching, and of his friendship with his contemporaries, including Michael Andrews, and later, some affinities with St Ives abstraction and with the ‘Situation in London’ painters. After his return to the UK, the work revealed a much bolder, vigorously painted and brightly coloured palette. The paintings were often devoid of human presence, but peopled with skeletal forms and quasi-surrealist constructions. In contrast, he also painted series of portrait heads, some as witty parodies of Picasso’s models, others as symbolic abstractions of the genre of portraiture itself.

Bacon’s then dealer, Erica Brausen, gave Willing his first solo exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, and although his work continued to be included in various group and survey exhibitions over the next twenty years, he did not have another solo exhibition until 1978, at London’s AIR Gallery. In 1982, together with an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, he was invited to be Artist-in-Residence at Cambridge University, followed by a solo exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. Over the next three years Bernard Jacobson gave him solo exhibitions in his galleries in New York, Los Angeles and London, before Nicholas Serota organised the first retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1986. In 2008 Pallant House in Chichester presented the most recent exhibition, featuring both rarely seen early and late work.

 

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Biography

Born in Alexandria in 1928 to a military family who moved back to England in 1932. Studied at the Guildford Art School (1945-49, interrupted by two years’ National Service) and at the Slade School of Art (1949-54), at the time when William Coldstream had just taken over as Director. Although already married in 1951, he met Paula Rego in 1953, and moved with her to Portugal in 1957, marrying her in 1959, and only returning definitively to the UK in 1974. He taught at the Corsham, Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art between 1964-67, but was diagnosed with slowly developing MS in 1966. He died in 1998.

His work before 1974, of which little survives, showed initially the influence of Coldstream’s teaching, and of his friendship with his contemporaries, including Michael Andrews, and later, some affinities with St Ives abstraction and with the ‘Situation in London’ painters. After his return to the UK, the work revealed a much bolder, vigorously painted and brightly coloured palette. The paintings were often devoid of human presence, but peopled with skeletal forms and quasi-surrealist constructions. In contrast, he also painted series of portrait heads, some as witty parodies of Picasso’s models, others as symbolic abstractions of the genre of portraiture itself.

Bacon’s then dealer, Erica Brausen, gave Willing his first solo exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, and although his work continued to be included in various group and survey exhibitions over the next twenty years, he did not have another solo exhibition until 1978, at London’s AIR Gallery. In 1982, together with an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, he was invited to be Artist-in-Residence at Cambridge University, followed by a solo exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. Over the next three years Bernard Jacobson gave him solo exhibitions in his galleries in New York, Los Angeles and London, before Nicholas Serota organised the first retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1986. In 2008 Pallant House in Chichester presented the most recent exhibition, featuring both rarely seen early and late work.

 

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