Humphrey Ocean

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Humphrey Ocean (born 22 June 1951)[1] is a contemporary British painter.


Humphrey Ocean was born Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon, on 22 June 1951 in Sussex, England, and went to art schools in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and Canterbury. From 1971 he was bass player with the Pub rock band Kilburn and the High Roads, which opened for The Who on its Christmas tour in 1973.

In 1983, Ocean painted Paul McCartney's portrait and the following year he painted the poet Philip Larkin's portrait for the National Portrait Gallery,[2] a work described by the novelist Nick Hornby as "unanswerable". Four years later, Ocean travelled to Northern Brazil with the American anthropologist Stephen Nugent, a lecturer at the University of London, eager to expose colonial caricatures of the region. Their subsequent book, Big Mouth: The Amazon Speaks, was published by Fourth Estate (HarperCollins) in 1990, and features evocative illustrations of Brazil. In 1999 the National Maritime Museum commissioned Ocean to paint a picture of modern maritime Britain. Ocean was elected a Royal Academician in 2004.[3] He is currently a Professor of Painting at Camberwell College of Arts.

Throughout the 1990s and the early years of the twenty-first century, Ocean's paintings were exhibited in many of the leading museums in the United Kingdom. In 2002, Ocean served as Artist-in-Residence at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which culminated in an exhibition inspired by 17th-century Dutch genre paintings and South London suburbia.[4] In addition to his portrait of Philip Larkin, he is perhaps best known for his iconic etching, Black Love Chair, which appeared on the cover of Paul McCartney's 2007 album Memory Almost Full.[5]

Humphrey Ocean attended Canterbury College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts) between 1970-1973 and was awarded an honorary fellowship in 2002.[6]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Public collections[edit]

  • British Council
  • Bruges-Zeebrugge Port Authority
  • Christ Church, Oxford
  • Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
  • Hertford College, Oxford
  • Imperial War Museum, London
  • National Maritime Museum, London
  • National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Queen Mary College, London
  • Royal Library, Windsor Castle
  • Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • St John's College, Cambridge
  • South London Gallery
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
  • University of Birmingham
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
  • Wolverhampton Art Gallery


  1. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2014. Mr Humphrey Ocean, painter, 60 
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