Humphrey Ocean

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Humphrey Ocean RA (born 22 June 1951)[1] is a contemporary British painter and Royal Academy Professor of Perspective.

Humphrey Ocean
Born Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon
(1951-06-22)June 22, 1951
Pulborough, West Sussex, England
Nationality British
Education Canterbury College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts)
Known for Painting, drawing, writing
Notable work
  • Lord Volvo and his Estate (1982)
  • Philip Larkin (1984)
  • Black Love Chair (2007)
  • Randy Lerner (2016)
Spouse(s) Miranda Argyle


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.

It was at Canterbury that he was taught by Ian Dury, then a painter. From 1971 he was bass player with the band Kilburn and the High Roads formed at Canterbury with Dury. They opened for The Who on its Christmas tour in 1973, after which Ocean resigned from music with the notable exception of recording the single "Whoops-a-Daisy" written by Ian Dury and Russell Hardy, for Stiff Records in 1978.

In 1983, Ocean painted Paul McCartney's portrait as part of the first prize in the 1982 John Player Portrait Award and the following year 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. 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 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.[3]

In 2002, Ocean was Artist-in-Residence at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, culminating in How's my Driving, an exhibition linking 17th-century Dutch genre paintings with South London suburbia.[4] That year he was awarded an honorary fellowship by Canterbury College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts) where he had been a student between 1970-1973.[5]

Ocean was elected a Royal Academician in 2004. Since 2012 he has been Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, a position once held by J. M. W. Turner.

In 2009 he appeared in Life Class: Today's Nude on Channel 4 television, a project with Artangel directed by Alan Kane. In 2013 Lord Volvo and his Estate (1982) by Humphrey Ocean was voted one of 57 of the nation’s favourite paintings and appeared on billboards around Britain in Art Everywhere organised by the Art Fund.[6]

In 2014 he completed a portrait[7] of Randy Lerner for the National Portrait Gallery. In the same year he advised on Turner's approach to perspective in Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner.

In 2015 he was made an Honorary Doctor by the University of Kent. He also featured in Will Gompertz Gets Creative on 11 July on BBC Radio 4, designed a road sign for his friend Margaret Calvert for the 50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign exhibition at the Design Museum, and showed in books + papers at Christine Koenig Galerie, Vienna.[8]

In 2016 he was appointed a Trustee of the Royal Drawing School.

On 11 October 2016, Ocean presented The Essay on BBC Radio 3 on Impington Village College.[9]

Humphrey Ocean lives and works in south London.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Public collections[edit]