Skip to main content

John Keane

Born 1954

John Keane was born in Hertfordshire and studied at Camberwell School of Art from 1972 - 76.  In 2000 he was appointed Visiting Professor at The London Institute and Visiting Research Fellow at Camberwell School of Art.

Keane uses his art to explore and comment upon human and political struggles; for the past thirty years much of his work has had a political theme, an early commission in 1988 for example, was for an exhibition about the Nottinghamshire mining community of Ollerton, in 2000 he engaged with Greenpeace UK in a project in the Amazon rain forest, resulting in a series of paintings on the subject of illegal logging.  In 2001 he produced a body of work called ‘The Inconvenience of History’ based on a project with Christian Aid in Israel and the Occupied Territories.  He is best known, however, for his war related paintings; in 1991 he was appointed as War Artist for the Gulf War spending time with British troops in Bahrain prior to the main offensive, in Kuwait city and on a naval patrol in the Persian Gulf.  Following his return to the UK he produced a large series of paintings based on this experience, thirty-five of which were exhibited at the Imperial War Museum and subsequently toured throughout the country.

Portraiture is another aspect of his work which has earned respect.  In 2001   the National Portrait Gallery commissioned him to paint a portrait of Mo Mowlem, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (the original commission was for a group portrait of the key figures in the peace process at the time: David Trimble, John Hume, Gerry Adams and Mo Mowlem, but it proved impossible to get agreement from all four members of the group, so the project was abandoned).  Keane received a further commission from the NPG for a portrait of Sir Bill Morris in 2005 and the following year he painted a portrait of Greg Dyke for the BBC.

Keane has exhibited extensively, at his London dealers, Flowers East, and at numerous galleries throughout the UK; his work has also been shown at venues abroad, including New York, Moscow, Peking, Prague, Chicago and Santa Monica.

Portrait of Professor David VandeLinde