Selected by Jamie Anderson

GILLIAN AYRES, Colored Glass, 2006


On her passing in 2018, the Guardian newspaper’s obituary contained the following opening line: “(she) was one of Britain’s most significant abstract painters, a woman of much vitality and generosity, and a domestic person on a grand, overspilling scale.” The headline for the same obituary stated that she was “one of Britain’s most popular abstract painters known for her huge vibrant canvases bursting with colour” – qualities which are perfectly encapsulated by our large oil on canvas, Coloured Glass.


Ayres was born in 1930 and rose to prominence within the London Art world during the late 1950s and 1960s when she exhibited firstly at the Redfern Gallery and then at the Kasmin Gallery. She was included in the seminal ‘Situation’ exhibition at the RBA Galleries in 1960 (she was the only woman artist represented in that show). Despite this early success, it was not until the 1980s that she began to achieve wider public recognition for her work. After a period spent teaching (she became the first woman in the UK to head a painting department at an art school) she began a rather late but meteoric ascendancy. Inclusion at the Hayward Annual in 1980 was followed by a major solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford and the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1981 and 1983 respectively. She was became a Royal Academician in 1982. From the late 80s onwards she painted in relative seclusion at her studio on the north coast border between Cornwall and Devon.


Ayres possessed a renowned joie de vivre and was defiantly non-conformist. Despite her presence on various arts committees and boards, she was a rather anarchic presence. Her work reflects these characteristics, but is wrong to think that there is no method or order to the mark-making. Ayres, in her later painting, developed a repertoire of abstracted pictorial shapes and signed which reoccur throughout her work. In a 2004 exhibition catalogue (for a show at the Alan Cristea Gallery), Mel Goodling discusses her late work, explaining how they “maintain the textural richness, the vibrancy of colour and the virtuosity of touch that is the essence of her painterly manner.” He goes on to note that “it hardly needs saying that Ayres has an extraordinary technical mastery of her art.”


Coloured Glass was acquired from the Alan Cristea Gallery in June 2007 and has remained in the same private collect ever since. It is available to view at our London gallery at 16 Savile Row.


Gillian Ayres (British 1930-2018)

Coloured Glass, 2006

Signed; signed, titled & dated on reverse

Oil on canvas

122 x 122 cm


September 20, 2021