Patrick Procktor — The Last Romantic

Exhibition in TheGallery

Now extended to March 3rd 2016

14 January – 3 March 2016

Curated by Dr. Ian Massey

TheGallery, Arts University Bournemouth

The artist Patrick Procktor RA (1936-2003) first came to prominence in 1963, when his first show opened at The Redfern Gallery in London. Both critically acclaimed and a near sell-out, the show launched him as a star of the Sixties art scene: remarkable given that he had graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art less than a year before. With his friends David Hockney, Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Procktor became part of a bohemian circle, one that reinvented modernity, seizing glamour as a liberating force at a time when, in cultural commentator Peter York’s phrase, ‘Style became a weapon to forge your own legend.’ Renowned for his camp theatricality and rapier wit, the charismatic Procktor formed many friendships, amongst them Cecil Beaton, Christopher Gibbs, Gilbert and George, and Princess Margaret. He painted and drew portraits of many luminaries of the era, such as rock star Mick Jagger, playwright Joe Orton, and the actor Jill Bennett. He travelled widely in Europe, India, China and Egypt, painting wherever he went.

This major exhibition of paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints traces this prolific artist’s career over the course of four decades. It includes important loans from both public and private collections, along with works from the artist’s estate. In considering the artist’s career and influences, the exhibition explores his relationship to figuration and abstraction, to Pop, fashion, music, film and photography. Key groups of work serve to document the development of Procktor’s art, as it progressed towards a particular vision and sensibility. There is an emphasis on drawing in the show, including working studies and examples of the artist’s work as illustrator and theatre designer. Documentary material includes photographs of Procktor and friends from the artist’s own Sixties album, and a selection made in 1969 by the photographer Homer Sykes.

The show opens with paintings and drawings made whilst Procktor was a student at the Slade in the late Fifties. Amongst works of the Sixties are remarkable, rarely seen canvases, in which the artist can be seen to engage with the stylistic idioms of the day, moving progressively towards the signature style for which he became renowned. Procktor had great facility and lightness of touch, particularly in watercolour; indeed, he was the most gifted water colourist of his generation. Amongst work in that medium will be landscapes and portraits, including that of his friend Derek Jarman.He reached a pinnacle of refinement in his work of the early Eighties, here represented in key loans. Latterly, in a return to his Slade roots, Procktor’s work became looser and more expressive, evident here in paintings and drawings loaned by his estate.

Behind the façade of Procktor’s dandyish persona lay a highly intelligent and complex man, always modest about his achievements. His sensibility was an essentially romantic one, and in his art he balanced a romantic impulse with classical restraint. Central to his artistic philosophy was Oscar Wilde’s dictum: ‘To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim’. In examining and documenting Procktor’s work, this exhibition will confirm the full seriousness of this hugely gifted artist.


Dr. Ian Massey is an art historian, writer and curator. He is the author of the monograph biography Patrick Procktor: Art and Life (2010) and co-author with Anthony Hepworth of Keith Vaughan: The Mature Oils (2012). Both publications were authorised by the artist’s Estates, and have been acclaimed widely, garnering international media coverage and reviews. Amongst other artists Ian has written about are the painters Trevor Bell, Sandra Blow, John McLean and Fraser Taylor. Publications for which he has written include Sight and SoundPN Review,Printmaking TodayVaroom and Visual Culture in Britain; he writes also for the Public Catalogue Foundation. He has curated exhibitions in Glasgow, Huddersfield and Manchester.

Ian has lectured widely, giving public talks on his research in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and St Ives. For many years he taught in university art and design departments, before going freelance in 2014; he is currently working on a book about twentieth century St Ives artists.

featured publication

Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic

Published by text + work, The Gallery AUB.

Publication includes contributions by Professor Emma Hunt, Richard Selby and Dr. Ian Massey.

ISBN: 978-0-901196-69-9

£10.00 / 72 Pages, 2016, soft cover with images

Available from the Online Store

Or visit TheGallery Office, Arts University Bournemouth