John Kirby (artist)

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John Kirby
Born 1949
Liverpool, England
Nationality British
Known for Painting

John Kirby (born 1949, Liverpool, England) is a British artist known for his paintings exploring issues of gender, religion, sexuality, and race. His work has been compared to that of René Magritte, Balthus and Edward Hopper.[1] Kirby has exhibited internationally and his work is held in several collections including the Tate Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Royal College of Art.

Early life[edit]

John Kirby was born in Liverpool in 1949 and grew up in Tuebrook. He was raised Irish Catholic and attended Saint Cecilia’s primary school as well as serving as an altar boy. When he was 16, Kirby left Liverpool to work in London as a shipping clerk and then traveled to Calcutta to help in a children’s home headed by Mother Teresa. After moving back to Liverpool, he trained as a social worker and then worked as a probation officer before enrolling in art school at the age of 33.[2]


Kirby trained at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art in London. He has created a large body of work that includes both painting and sculpture and has cited his religious background as a strong influence, as well as the “ambiguity of sex and gender” in his work.[1][3] Kirby’s first major retrospective was held at the Walker Art Gallery in 2012, with more than fifty of his paintings and several of his sculptures.[1][2] His work has been described as “bleak and lonely” and dominated by “solitary figures in strange worlds.”[1][4]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2012 The Living and the Dead, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
  • 2010 What Remains, Flowers East, London
  • 2009 Home, Flowers Cork Street, London
  • 2007 Being Alive, Flowers Central, London
  • 2006 Mixed Blood, Flowers, New York
  • 2006 Il Polittico, Rome
  • 2005 Absent Friends, Flowers Central, London
  • 2005 New prints and monoptypes, Flowers Graphics, London
  • 2003 Someone Else Flowers, New York
  • 2002 Flowers Central, London
  • 2002 Paintings, Flowers West, Santa Monica, California
  • 2000 New Prints and Monoprints, Flowers Graphics, London
  • 2000 Il Polittico, Rome
  • 1999 Lost Children, Flowers East, London
  • 1998 Lost Children, Flowers West, Santa Monica, California
  • 1997 In the Dark, Flowers East, London
  • 1997 John Kirby, Il Polittico, Rome
  • 1996 Art Basel 27, Switzerland
  • 1995 The Company of Strangers, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
  • 1994 The Company of Strangers, Flowers East, London
  • 1993 The Sign of the Cross, Angela Flowers Gallery, London
  • 1992 Homeland, Flowers East, London
  • 1991 Homeland, Lannon Cole Gallery, Chicago
  • 1991 New York and Related Works, Flowers East, London
  • 1989 Still Lives, Flowers East, London
  • 1988 Other People's Lives, Angela Flowers (Ireland) Inc., Co.Cork
  • 1988 Other People's Lives, Angela Flowers (Ireland) Inc., Co.Cork
  • 1987 Artist of the Day, Angela Flowers Gallery, London

Public collections[edit]

  • Contemporary Art Society
  • Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
  • Irish Contemporary Art Society
  • John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton
  • Royal College of Art Collection
  • Tate Gallery, London
  • University College of Wales, Aberystwyth
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • René Magritte Foundation, Brussels


External links[edit]