Albert Irvin OBE RA was one of the most exuberant, colourful and widely-respected British artists. He continues to be closely associated with Churchill College and the Møller Centre, where many of his paintings and prints are on display.
Born on 21 August 1922 in Bermondsey, London, Irvin was educated at Northampton School of Art. However, at the outbreak of World War II, he was drafted in to the war effort to serve as a navigator in the RAF. Following this interlude he was able to complete his studies at Goldsmiths College, London – where he later returned to teach in the painting department.
At the outset, Irvin’s work was figurative; he painted subjects that he knew first-hand, such as portraits and people in domestic surroundings. However, the figures gradually gave way to a more abstract language. Increasing in scale and moving away from naturalistic colour, Irvin conceived the picture space metaphorically as a terrain with affinities both to London street maps and to landscape. His work is a collage of gestural strokes, symbols and cross-hatching in lively, chromatically intense compositions.
Since his first solo show in 1960, Irvin’s work was exhibited regularly both nationally and abroad. His works are included in major collections, including Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 1998 Irvin was elected a Senior Royal Academician, and in 2013 he was appointed an OBE in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to the visual arts.
Main photo: Albert at the Møller Centre in 2014 with Gillian Secrett, CEO, Møller Centre. Additional photo was sadly Albert’s last public appearance, ‘An Evening with Albert’ at the Møller, hosted by Barry Phipps, Director of Visual Art, Møller Centre and Fellow of Churchill College.