Born London 1922. Died 2015.
Studied at Northampton School of Art from 1940-41 before serving in the RAF during the war. Once de-mobbed, he studied at Goldsmiths College of Art in London from 1946-50.
Irvin’s painting was initially inspired by impressionism but gradually moved through realist to more expressionist styles in the late 1950s. The exhibition of ‘Modern Art in the United States’ at the Tate Gallery in 1956, with works by Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko and Motherwell, had a powerful impact on him, the scale of their work, their use of gesture and colour led to his adoption of a purely abstract visual language. An Arts Council travel award in 1968 enabled him to travel to America where he met several artists associated with Abstract Expressionism.
In the early 1970s he switched from oil paints to acrylics, a faster-drying medium which suited the energetic, spontaneous style of painting which has become his trademark. He began screen printing around 1980 and this became a highly successful outlet enabling him to reach a new, receptive market for his work.
For the past five decades Irvin’s prolific output has been exhibited frequently and widely throughout the UK, Europe and America; the first of his solo shows was mounted in Edinburgh in 1960 and many have followed since; major retrospectives were held in 1990 at the Serpentine Gallery, London and at Tate Britain in 2008. In 2012 his long-term London gallery Gimpel Fils gave him a tribute exhibition to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. He was made Royal Academician in 1998 and awarded the OBE in 2013.
Irvin’s work has been acquired for numerous public collections including the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Arts Council, the British Council, Manchester City Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the UK, as well as collections abroad in Australia, Germany, America, Holland, Austria and Dublin.