Remembering Albert Irvin RA

Published 2 April 2015

Basil Beattie remembers his friend and fellow Academician, the painter Albert Irvin RA, who has died at the age of 92.

  • I first met him as a colleague when we both joined the staff at Goldsmith’s College in the early 60s. He became a very dear and close friend.

    We shared many interests and enthusiasms often born from our own practices as artists. I remember there was much talk about a lot of the work we saw coming from America in the early 60s. Often a day of discussing work by students would be followed by a visit to an exhibition in town, followed by further talk and nourishment in an adjacent bar, or making a short journey to a favourite watering hole like the Queen’s Elm – sadly no longer in existence.

    Bert had an extensive knowledge of classical music and often referred to its links to painting. An example of this was when he made reference to Beethoven’s Fidelio as a title for his exhibition at Gimpel Fils Gallery in 2012. But one of my most memorable reflections and a typical example of Bert’s wit, was the way he described the importance of music to painting, which for him was the realisation that it was possible to say what it felt like to be a human being without having to paint noses and feet.

    I’ve long admired Bert’s terrific energy, his passion and his determination to develop his painterly language, which is most spectacularly experienced in his huge canvases. These expansive, colourful and optimistic works rarely conjure up dark thoughts. They seem overwhelmingly to be celebrations of being alive and a true reflection of Bert’s spirit.

    His wit and his warm genial manner always made it a pleasure to be in his company. I will greatly miss him.

    Read more about Albert Irvin RA on his Academician’s page.