James Hull 1921-1990

Overview

Born in 1921, James Hull can be considered one of the early pioneers of English abstract art. Having spent 1939-46 in service, Hull’s early work was a figurative exploration of the trauma and suffering that he encountered during the war. Although the impact of this challenging and insightful painting was considerable, it was the effect his career had on the development of abstract art in Britain that was the most significant.

It was during the 1940’s that his work turned to the mode of abstraction, and it was during this period that his work focused on the purity of form and its underlying structure; many piece’s resembling woodcuts as dark shadow like shapes were pitted against flat, subdued colour. These piece’s were innovative in terms of playing an integral part in a shift towards abstraction in painting at this time, as he became part of a larger group of artists who were forging a similar path such as William Gear, Victor Pasmore and Sandra Blow. This dynamism was reflected in Hull’s commercial success, which was initially marked by his one man show at the Gimpel Fils gallery, which specialized in abstract art at this time. By 1953 his work had extended beyond Europe as he was exhibiting at the Passedoit gallery in New York. 

Following this period of artistic success, Hull developed an interest in domestic and industrial design. He won a daily mirror competition to design their new building in the late 1950’s, which lead to a job as a design consultant at the IPC conglomerate for the following ten years. He then moved to Ibiza in the 1970’s with his wife, Jeanne, and subsequently went on to travel alone, primarily exploring Tunisia. It was during the 1980’s that Hull made his final return to painting, marked by a show at the Resnick Gallery. In this body of work he appeared to translate his architectural interest into crisp, geometric forms, fused with a freer and increasingly fluid approach to colour.

 

Works