Gillian Ayres at home in Barnes, London.
London, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres with a cigarette near one of her paintings at a 1962 exhibition of her work in London.
Gillian Ayres in front of one of her huge canvases.
Gillian Ayres with her Order of the British Empire she received in 2011.
Gillian Ayres in her studio.
Brook Green, London W6 7BS, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres studied at the Saint Paul's Girls' School from 1942 to 1946.
45-65 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UF, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres studied at the Camberwell College of Art from 1946 to 1950.
London, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres served as a senior lecturer at the Saint Martin's School of Art from 1965 to 1978.
77-82 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres exhibited at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1963.
University of Southampton, Park Ave, Winchester SO23 8DL, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres served as a dean of the painting department at the Winchester School of Art from 1978 to 1981.
30 Pembroke St, Oxford OX1 1BP, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 1981.
Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997.
Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NP, United Kingdom
Gillian Ayres exhibited at the National Museum Cardiff in 2017.
Gillian Ayres exhibited at Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in China in 2017.
The Officer's insignia of the Order of the British Empire Gillian Ayres received in 1986.
The Commander's insignia of the Order of the British Empire Gillian Ayres received in 2011.
Gillian Ayres started her education at the age of six when she was sent by her parents to a school in Roehampton district of London based on Fröbel principles.
In 1941, Ayres pursued her studies at the Saint Paul's junior school in Hammersmith. A year later, she became a student of the Saint Paul's Girls' School.
Ayres was not a brilliant student but she revealed her talent to landscape painting. So, while there, the young girl made a strong decision to become an artist, and developed a friendship with Shirley Williams, the future politician.
Gillian ignored her final exams and tried to enter the Slade School of Fine Art. Her attempt was successful, but she was too young to be enrolled at the institution. Instead, Ayres enrolled at the Camberwell School of Art (currently the college of arts) in 1946. She spent four years at the institution and met Howard Hodgkin who became her companion and lifelong friend.
In 1994, Gillian Ayres received an Honorary Doctorate of English Literature from the University of London.
The start of Gillian Ayres’s career can be counted from her teaching activity at the beginning of the 1940s. While a student of the Saint Paul's Girls' School, she taught art to children of destroyed Stepney, a district of London.
As to an artistic career, Ayres first demonstrated her art at the Young Contemporaries exhibition of 1949 and at the London Group exhibition of 1951. The debut solo show of the artist was held five years later at Gallery One in London.
From 1951 to 1959, she earned her living as a part-time employee in the AIA Gallery in Soho area of London. While there, she tried her hand as a muralist working on a commission from Michael Greenwood to decorate the South Hampstead high school dining hall. At the beginning of the new decade, Gillian Ayres recommenced her teaching activity and joined the professor’s staff of the Bath Academy of Art and Design where she spent six years instead of six months she was invited for. She then moved to Saint Martin's School of Art (doesn’t exist nowadays) where she occupied the post of a senior lecturer till 1978.
Among the exhibitions of the period were the 1960 Situation exhibition in the RBA Galleries in London, the Whitechapel Art Gallery show of 1963 and collaboration with the Kasmin Gallery (1965, 1966 and 1969).
Although Ayres had several presentations throughout the next ten years, she concentrated more on teaching. In 1978, she was invited to head the painting department at the Winchester School of Art. However, by 1981, she completely dropped teaching and relocated to the Llyn Peninsula in north-west Wales with an intention to dedicate more time to her canvases. It was the beginning of the most productive and creative period.
Since then, Gillian Ayres had regularly exhibited thruoghout the country and in Europe, including the shows at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford, Oxford in 1981, the Serpentine Gallery in London two years later and the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997. During the twentieth century, her art was featured by the National Museum Cardiff and the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing, both in 2017. The important art galleries which also hosted her paintings included Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
An outstanding painter, Ayres was also a talented printmaker. Her first three etchings were demonstrated in 1998 at the London’s Alan Cristea Gallery which would represent her prints the following years organizing many personal exhibitions, including the traveling ones.
High Summer World of Light
Antony and Cleopatra
At This Stage
Days of Lang Syne
Sound of Silence
This Sweet and Merry Month
Where the Cymbals of the Rhea Played
Although having a combative character, Gillian Ayres was far from politics. She was indifferent to the discussions about government, racism and current affairs.
"Painting is a visual, silent medium, but I love it and I am obsessed by it."
"The paintings are not a direct response to any particular moment or subject. I don’t expect people to all have the same feeling when looking at them. Like looking at art, what inspires one is very personal, and sometimes one doesn’t know or doesn’t want to reveal where it comes from."
"People like to understand, and I wish they wouldn’t. I wish they’d just look. It’s visual."
"The whole idea of the canvas as an area in which to act, an area and what one does with it — I wanted to find out about that, obsessively."
Gillian Ayres was an independent person, both in life and art. She rarely accepted any kind of advice, including medical recommendations. She kept the distance from the majority of art committees and groups, preferring to collaborate directly with a concrete artist.
Quotes from others about the person
“"Pushing the medium to its limits, she communicates a kind of reckless radiance that comes across in paintings large and small, square or round." John Russell, an art critic”
Gillian Ayres married the artist Henry Mundy in 1951. The family produced two sons named Jimmy and Sam. The latter followed his mother’s steps and became a painter.
Although Gillian and Henry divorced in 1976, they shared the same home almost till the end of their lives.