This spectacular body of new work testifies to John Virtue’s time on Blakeney Point, North Norfolk, walking and drawing this stretch of coast each week, immersed in the sea and sky in all seasons and in all weather. From this part of the coast the uninterrupted panoramic views across the salt marshes and shingle beaches lead directly to the horizon. The artist’s connection with this place is communicated through the encompassing scale of these canvases. His expansive gestures, the bold handling of paint, draw the viewer in to the image and the environment he captures, the intensity and turbulence of the sea.
John Virtue works solely in black and white: all his paintings are executed on canvas, using white acrylic paint. Trained at the Slade School of Art, London, from 1965 to 1969, Virtue worked as a postman in the late 1970s before devoting himself to his art in the 1980s. He has always worked from the landscape where he lives, initially from the moorland in North East Lancashire where his first monochrome works were created. For many years he was based in Exeter, South Devon, taking the edge of Dartmoor and the Exe Estuary as his subjects. From 2003 to 2005, Virtue was Artist Associate at the National Gallery, London – a period of intensive work based in a studio in the Gallery, scrutinising the London skyline.
Two years living in Italy separated his time in London and his move to Norfolk, the latter prompted by a stay in Burnham Market, near Burnham Thorpe, the birthplace of his lifelong hero, Horatio Nelson. However, it was the view of the sea from Blakeney Point that inspired Virtue to live and work in North Norfolk in 2009 and since then has been dedicated to the production of these new paintings based on the sea.
John Virtue – The Sea is generously supported by Marlborough Fine Art, London.