John Virtue

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John Virtue
Born 1947
Accrington, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Slade School of Fine Art (1965–1969)
Known for Painting

John Virtue is an English artist who specialises in monochrome landscapes. He is honorary Professor of Fine Art at the University of Plymouth, and from 2003–2005 was the sixth Associate Artist at London's National Gallery.[1]

Virtue was born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1947.[2] He trained at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1965 to 1969. In 1971 he moved to Green Haworth, near Oswaldtwistle, painting landscapes for two years before abandoning painting in favour of pen and ink drawings comprising dense networks of lines akin to the work of Samuel Palmer.[3]

From 1978 he worked as a postman, giving this up in 1985 to work as a full-time artist. He lived in Devon from 1988–2004.[4]

Maintaining a studio in Exeter, he produced works around the Exe estuary, before being offered the post of Associate Artist at the National Gallery.[5] This scheme engages contemporary artists to produce work that "connects to the National Gallery Collection" and demonstrates "the continuing inspiration of the Old Master tradition".[1]


Virtue uses only black and white on his work as he sees colour as "unnecessary distraction".[6] He uses shellac black ink and white paint.

He is well known for his "London Paintings" which were displayed in The National Gallery and focused on the London skyline, using easily distinguishable landmarks from the capital such as the Gherkin, the NatWest Tower and St. Paul's Cathedral, to familiarise his audience with the otherwise hazy, smoggy and ambiguous drawings.

Virtue's awards include: first prize in the Sunday Mirror painting competition (1964), Walter Neurath prize for painting awarded by Thames & Hudson Publishers (1966), Arts Council Major Award (1981), Joint First prize-winner in the 4th Tolly Cobbold Exhibition (1983), and Best Visual Artist in the South Bank Awards (2006).[7]

His work during his National Gallery tenure was exhibited in 2005 at the National Gallery and Courtauld Institute, and his final, large-scale, London works were exhibited at the University of Plymouth in 2007.[4]He moved to Italy to work and returned in 2009 to live in North Norfolk.[8] where he has continued to produce work, for example, 'The Sea' exhibitions[9]


  1. ^ a b Associate Artist Scheme, National Gallery
  2. ^ Michael Glover (8 February 2013). "Great Works: Landscape No 710, 2003-4, by John Virtue". The Independent. 
  3. ^ Peter Kingston (8 March 2005). "John Virtue: Being a professor is the new black". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ a b Painting is a virtue, Jo Loosemore, BBC Devon
  5. ^ Preparatory work Archived 29 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine., National Gallery
  6. ^ Haymarket Hotel, London NW1, Rupert Wright, The Times, 19 May 2007
  7. ^ Doctor Who saves Billie Piper's career, Jenny Booth and Jack Malvern, The Times, 27 January 2006
  8. ^ retrieved 19th October 2014
  9. ^ retrieved 19th October 2014
  • Biography, National Gallery
  • Richard Cork [catalogue essay], John Virtue: Ten New Works London and New York: Lisson Gallery and Louver Gallery, 1990.

External links[edit]