Gillian Ayres RA

Gillian Ayres studied at Camberwell School of Art, London from 1946 to 1950. She worked part time at the AIA Gallery from 1951 to 1959, and went on to teach at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, until 1965. She then taught at St Martin’s School of Art, London from 1965 to 1978 and in 1978 became Head of Painting at Winchester School of Art where she remained until 1981.

Ayres first exhibited with Young Contemporaries in 1949 and with the London Group in 1951. Her first solo exhibition was at Gallery One, London in 1956. Subsequent solo shows were held regularly throughout Europe, including the Kara Benson Gallery, Oslo (1957), the Molton Gallery, London (1960, 1962), Kasmin Gallery, London (1965, 1966, 1969) and Galeria Alvarez, Porto, Portugal (1977). Ayres went on to have several exhibitions with the Knoedler Gallery in London and New York from 1979, and a retrospective of her work was held at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1983. The retrospective toured to Barnsley, Penzance, Nottingham and Llandudno. More recently she has had solo shows at the Tate Gallery, London (1995) and at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (1997). She continues to exhibit regularly at Gimpel Fils, London and at the Alan Cristea Gallery, London.

Among Ayres’s many awards are the Japan International Art Promotion Association Award (1963); Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary (1975); Arts Council of Great Britain purchase award (1979); Second Prize, John Moores Biennale, Liverpool (1982); the Blackstone Prize, Royal Academy of Arts (1988; 1990); Charles Wollaston Award, Royal Academy of Arts (1989); and Prize Winner, Gold Medal, Seventh Triennale – India, British Council (1991).

Ayres was awarded an OBE in 1986 and was elected Royal Academician in 1991 (ARA 1982). She was made an Honorary Doctor of English Literature by London University (1994), a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, London (1996) and received a Sargent Fellowship from The British School At Rome in 1997. London’s University of the Arts made her an Honorary Fellow in 2005. Gillian Ayres lives and works in Cornwall and London.


Royal Academician


Elected ARA: 5 May 1982

Elected RA: 29 May 1991

Born: 3 February 1930