British artist John Hoyland began his artistic career at Sheffield School of Art in 1951 and attended the Royal Academy from 1956 to 1960. In January 1956, Hoyland was heavily influenced by the exhibition ‘Modern Art in the United States’ at Tate Gallery (London), where he first encountered American abstract painting, including works by Rothko and Pollock. When graduating from the Royal Academy in 1960, his graduation exhibition consisted entirely of abstract paintings, causing a huge scandal at the time. These paintings were removed by order of the President of the Royal Academy. Months after leaving the RA, Hoyland exhibited his first fully abstract, large-scale paintings with the influential Situation group at the RBA Gallery.
Over the next decade, Hoyland’s artistic career took off. In 1964, he was selected by British curator Bryan Robertson to be a part of the ‘New Generation’ exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Other new, young talent selected to be in the exhibition included Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Paul Huxley, Allen Jones, and Bridget Riley. This opportunity led to Hoyland’s solo show there in 1967, where he became the youngest artist during Robertson’s directorship to receive such an accolade. The event was described as ‘a defining moment in the history of British abstract painting’.
Between 1964 and 1973, Hoyland frequently visited the United States, and even worked there for a period in the late 60s, which initiated his relationships with various major art critics of the era. In 1969, he represented Great Britain alongside Sir Anthony Caro at the Sao Paolo Biennale, Brazil.
In 1977, Hoyland was both a selector and exhibitor at the Royal Academy Silver Jubilee Exhibition in London, and from 1979 – 1980 had a major, mid-career retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London. In 1982, the artist won the John Moores Painting Prize with ‘Broken Bride’ at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and by 1983, Hoyland was elected as a member of the Royal Academy. 1987 saw Hoyland win the Athena Art Award, which at the time was the richest British Art Prize. The following year Hoyland selected and curated the Hans Hoffman Exhibition at the Tate Gallery. In 1991, Hoyland was elected as Royal Academician, in 1999 was appointed Professor of Painting at Royal Academy Schools, and in the same year he later received the rare honour for an academician to hold a retrospective of work. At that point his relationship with the RA had come full circle, after the outrage he had sparked nearly forty years prior. Hoyland continued to hold solo shows in various galleries and exhibitions across the country and worldwide.
Hoyland received many awards throughout his career, including the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Purchase Award in 1963, a Peter Stuyvesant travel bursary, Prize Winner at the John Moore’s Liverpool Exhibition in 1965 and won First Prize in 1982, he received an Arts Council Purchase Award in 1979, joint first prize with William Scott at the Korn Ferry International Award Exhibition in 1986, and First Prize of the Athena Art Award in 1987. In 1998 he won the Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
John Hoyland passed away in July 2011 at the age of 76. His contributions to British contemporary art have been revolutionary and have had great influence on younger generations artists such as Damien Hirst.