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John McLean

Born Liverpool 1939. Died London 2019.

John McLean was born in 1939, the son of the Scottish painter Talbert McLean (1906-1992). He studied English at the University of St Andrews (1957-1962) before going on to study the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in London (1963-1966).

Initially he taught Art History at University College London and Chelsea School of Art but was also painting and had his first solo exhibition in 1975. His early work was figurative but this changed after a visit to New York in 1972 where he met Clement Goldberg who introduced him to the Abstract Expressionist painters Jules Olitski, Larry Poons and Jack Bush. McLean acknowleged the influence of these painters as well that of Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland in the large scale abstract paintings he subsequently produced. These nevertheless reflected his experience of the natural world, saying that colour and light were fundamental elements he responded to. In 1977 he was included in the exhibition 'Four Abstract Painters' at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

In the 1990s other influences were seen in his work as a result of his seeing two particular exhibitions of European masters: the Matisse Retrospective in New York in 1992 and the Joan Miro exhibition in Barcelona in 1993. The effects were seen in paintings using arrangements of simplified shapes and in the use of black as well as saturated hues. The Matisse influence was dramatically seen in the commission carried out for the design for three windows in Norwich Cathedral installed in 2014.

Exhibitions of John McLean's work were regularly held at the Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh and elsewhere in the UK, America and Canada. In 2016 a retrospective entitled 'Like Singing and Dancing' was mounted at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and at the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou Province the following year; a further show was held in Beijing in 2018 at the PIFO Gallery paired with the Chinese artist Wang Jian. .

His work is in many private and public collections including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council Collection, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh, the Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and the Yale Centre for British Art; New Haven, USA.