Now in his seventies John Virtue is considered to be one of the the most distinguished painters working in the United Kingdom today. His work is included in the collections of TATE, London, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Government Art Collection (UK), Arts Council of England and the Courtauld Institute. He has always painted in black and white.

I am thinking about vastness and infinity, but not abstraction. How to make new imagery that resonates in a visceral way. I'm looking at everything from the last eight hundred years of European Art and Zen Calligraphy.

In 2003, he became the 6th associate artist at the National Gallery, London, a scheme allowing an invited contemporary artist to connect with the collection to produce work inspired by the Old Master tradition. Culminating in 2005, a group of monumental London skyline paintings were exhibited at this flagship public institution. The acclaimed art historian Simon Sharma has said of John’s work - particluarly in reference to the London paintings - Virtue's blacks and whites aren't polarised absolutes: they drip and smear each other with gleeful impurity, much of the white flecked with a kind of metropolitan ashiness that gives the paint guts and substance, much of the black, streaky and loose, like road tar that refuses to set.

Throughout his career, John’s engagement with a single subject landscape has been a painstaking ritual. After moving from Lancashire, he spent sixteen years living in Devon producing works around the Exe estuary before moving to London and then on to Italy. In 2009, he moved to North Norfolk to square up to the immensity that is the sea, sky and weather. His monochrome works are squeezed from a repeated process of observation, drawing and by walking along the same beach, week in, week out, from Cley-next-the-sea to Blakeney Point.

His work has been deeply influenced not only by giants of the past, such as J M W Turner, John Constable and Samuel Palmer, but also by twentieth century greats, Franz Kline, Robert Ryman and Jackson Pollock. Japanese calligraphy also plays heavily into his oeuvre through his admiration of Ike no Taiga (Edo period) and Sengai Gibon (Rinzai School).

In 2019, a monograph covering over forty years of John's work was published by ALBION Ridinghouse. This two hundred and eighty five page illustrated book provides a substantial overview of the development of Virtue's art and traces his close relationship with locations in Devon, Exeter, London, Italy and Norfolk. Critical text is provided by Paul Moorhouse, Ex TATE and previously, Senior Curator, 20th Century Collections, National Portrait Gallery.
Currently, we have a number of small Norfolk seascapes, all completed 2019-20. Please contact us for further information about these paintings. Prices range from £350-£6,000
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