John Bratby 1928-1992


John Bratby was a painter, novelist and teacher. Born in London, he studied at the Kingston College of Art (1948–50) and the Royal College of Art (1951–4), where he was awarded a bursary to travel in Italy. Upon graduating from the Royal College of Art, Bratby achieved instant fame thanks to his unadulterated views of ordinary domestic life. He was soon regarded as the leading light of what came to be known as the ‘Kitchen Sink Painters' (including Jack Smith, Edward Middleditch and Derrick Greaves).


His first solo exhibition was held at the Beaux Art Gallery in 1954, where he exhibited regularly. In 1956 he was chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale.


Bratby taught for two brief periods, first at Carlisle College of Art (1956) and then at the Royal College of Art (1957-8). In 1991, the National Portrait Gallery held a retrospective. Bratby exhibited with the Mayor Gallery, the Albemarle Gallery and the Catto Gallery, and was elected RA in 1971.


His interest and concern with social realism and his use of a bright, colourful palette set him apart from peers who shared his desire to depict the banality of a working-class life. A highly skilled draughtsman, Bratby used the everyday and whatever he found around him for his subject matter; his scenes of pinched domesticity had a huge impact on the public. His passion for the plastic qualities of paint and achieving expressionistic impasto effects linked him with artists such as Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.