Leonard McComb RA (1930 - 2018)

Leonard McComb described his work as visual abstractions after nature. He was very interested in the detail in nature and declared that everything he drew or painted, whether a portrait head, flower, landscape, still life or breaking sea wave, was a portrait to him.

McComb was a versatile artist who celebrated working in various media and was unusual amongst his contemporaries in being represented in the Tate collection by watercolours, oil paintings, prints and sculptures. His sculpture Young Man Standing, also known as the Golden Man (Tate), was the subject of national controversy when it was withdrawn from exhibition in Lincoln Cathedral on the grounds of indecency.

Leonard McComb studied at Manchester School of Art and subsequently at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1956 to 1959, followed by a postgraduate degree in sculpture, also at the Slade, in 1960. He went on to teach at various art schools, including Oxford Brookes University, Sir John Cass College, Slade School of Fine Art, Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College, and in 1974 he founded the Sunningwell School of Art, Oxford.

Having destroyed most of his early work, McComb was included in the landmark exhibition The Human Clay held at the Hayward Gallery in 1976, with his first solo show taking place at the Coracle Press the following year. In 1983 an Arts Council touring exhibition entitled Leonard McComb: Drawing, Painting, Sculpture was organised by the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford and toured to the Serpentine Gallery, London; City Art Gallery, Manchester; Gardner Arts Centre, University of Sussex and the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. His work has also been included in important group shows at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1982), the Tate Gallery (1984), the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C. (1986) and the Museum of Modern Art, Brussels (1987).

Among McComb’s many awards are the Royal Academy’s Jubilee Award (1977); Korn Ferry Award (1990); Times Watercolour Prize (1992 and 1993); Nordstern Print Prize (1997); and the RWS Prize (1998). McComb had received many major commissions for private and corporate collections throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. In 1999 he completed a commissioned portrait of the novelist Doris Lessing for the National Portrait Gallery, London. The following year he was selected by the Vatican to design a Jubilee Medal, featuring Pope John Paul II and the late Archbishop Basil Hume, for the worldwide series to commemorate the Millennium.

McComb was elected Royal Academician in 1991 (ARA 1987) and in 1995 was elected Keeper of the Royal Academy, placing him in charge of the Royal Academy Schools until 1998. He was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Printmakers in 1996. McComb lived and worked in London until his death in 2018.


Royal Academician


Born: 3 August 1930 in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Died: 19 June 2018

Nationality: British

Elected ARA: 27 May 1987

Elected RA: 26 June 1991

Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2005

Keeper from: 1995 - 1998

Gender: Male

Visit Leonard McComb RA (1930 - 2018)'s website

Preferred media: Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Tapestry design, and Ceramic design

Works by Leonard McComb in the RA Collection

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Works associated with Leonard McComb in the RA Collection

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Associated archives

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