Albert Irvin b. 1922


Albert Irvin OBE, RA, is renowned for his bold abstract expressionist paintings, watercolours, screen prints and gouaches. The British artist was born in Bermondsey, London and spent his life living and working in the city, creating pieces that celebrate the human experience. Linking directly to his fascination of the human relationship with the external world, Irvin’s works often display his obsession with journeys, maps, cities and the spatial environment. To express this fascination Irvin used a specific form of paint application which mirrored the movement of people, in broad and sweeping strokes, often using a standing, aerial painting technique and in the later years energetically painting with a long-handled brush onto floor canvases as they grew in size.


Irvin’s career was slow to start. Like many in his generation, his aspirations were put on hold as a result of World War Two, during which his studies at Northampton School of Art were cut short when he was called up as a navigator for the Royal Air Force in 1941. After the war Irvin was able to resume his studies, enrolling at Goldsmiths College in London where he graduated in 1950 with a National Diploma in Design. In 1962, Irvin returned to Goldsmiths as a professor, where he taught for over twenty years.


Inspired by the New York School and the American Abstract Expressionists including de Kooning and Kline, whose work gained traction in Britain throughout the early to mid- 1950s, Irvin embarked on a mid-century exploration of the tension between figuration and abstraction. By 1959 Irvin had fully embraced abstracting works which he explained expressed the 'drama of life’ through the use of vivid hues and large- scale canvases. As Irvin stated, his works ‘are not in any sense depictions of anything: I like to think that rather than being pictures of the world, they are pictures about it'. 


Albert Irvin has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally; a major retrospective of his work was held at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1990. His works are also held in multiple public and private collections including the Arts Council, British Council, Tate Gallery, Royal Academy, Manchester Art Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum.