Patrick Heron was born in Headingley in Leeds. After living in Cornwall his family moved to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire in 1929. Five years later, working for Cresta Silks, Heron designed his first silkscreen. Then in 1937 he became a part-time student at the Slade School of Fine Art in London for two years. In 1940 he worked as an agricultural labourer in Cambridge and Welwyn Garden City for our years before becoming an assistant at Bernard Leach’s Pottery in St.Ives in Cornwall and finally, in 1945, moving to Holland Park after marrying Delia Reiss.
He was art critic for the New English Weekly for two years before having his first one-man exhibition in 1947. His early work included many figurative studies such as ‘The Gas Stove’ (1946) but the painting ‘The Boats and the Iron Ladder’ (1947) showed the direction he was moving towards with its complex patterning and unusual use of colours. His early work was influenced by Georges Braque and Henri Matisse but in the mid-Fifties he became more abstract for example in ‘Red Layers with Blue and Yellow’ (1957). After working as art critic on The New Statesman and Nation he started a teaching job at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London in 1953 and in 1956 moved to Cornwall settling at Eagle’s Nest in Zennor.
Heron was awarded the Grand prize at the second John Moores Liverpool Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. During the Sixties and Seventies he lectured around the world, culminating in a book, The Shape of Colour in 1978. 1979 brought about a commission to design two carpets for the foyer of the Cavendish Hotel in London, followed two years later with a commission to design a tapestry for the University of Galway in Eire. Heron produced over 50 paintings while working as Artist in Residence at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and these represented an artist who was still developing in terms of his techniques with which to represent the natural world using unlikely juxtapositions of colour and original compositions.
Patrick Heron’s work is devoted to analyses of natural forms and colours. From his abstract works, particularly those made up of horizontal or vertical stripes to his softer-edged shapes, he regularly uses colour to express the pleasure of sight as one of the most important human senses. Although working in the European tradition, one can also see aspects of Pollock, Rothko and De Conning in Heron’s work. As well as painting and tapestry design, he has also designed a stained glass window for the Tate Gallery in St. Ives and designed a kneeler to encircle the Henry Moore altar at St. Stephen Wallbrook in London.