John Copnall 1928-2007

John Bainbridge Copnall was a 20th century abstract expressionist who took an undivided approach to form and colour: "Painting is colour and colour is painting".


born in Slinfold, Sussex, son of sculptor Edward Bainbridge Copnall, in February. He studied at the Architectural Association from 1946, before serving his National Service in the Army. By the time he left the army after two years in postwar Egypt, John had decided to turn against his father's wishes for him to be an architect and to become a professional artist. He briefly studied painting with his father at the Sir John Cass College, London, before enrolling at the Royal Academy in 1949 under the tutorage of Henry Rushbury.

Copnall's early work was very much in the figurative style of the day, but towards the end of his time at the RA he began to become aware of the exciting developments happening within the American art scene. This coincided with a trip Copnall made to Spain with fellow student Bert Flugelman soon after graduation, spent hitchhiking to Barcelona. The plan was to stay for a month, but the Spanish landscape had such a profound effect on Copnall that he ended up staying until 1968.

After the failure of his first marriage, to Madeleine Chardon, with whom he had lived on Ibiza, and Flugelman's return to London, Copnall moved to mainland Spain and, long before the years of tourist development, bought a rundown farmhouse in the mountains above Malaga, the tiny village of Benalmadena, Andalucia. Here, inspired by his interest in Abstract Expressionism and the dramatic Spanish landscape, he began a series of powerful abstract paintings.

Copnall returned to London in 1968 and taught for many years at the Central School of Art and Design and was a visiting lecturer at Canterbury College of Art. During this time he continued to exhibit widely, with a selected list of exhibitions below. Widely appreciated by many fellow artists, Copnall won the EA Abbey scholarship in 1970 and awards from the Arts Council and the British Council. In 1988 he was elected to the London Group. Copnall's first solo exhibition was at the Piccadilly Gallery in 1955, but this was followed by many more in Britain as well as in Germany - Cologne, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich - Spain and Finland.


In 1982 Copnall was one of a group of artists who bought the Spratts Dog Food warehouse off the Bow Road, in the East End of London, and converted it into studios. After the end of his second marriage, to Caroline Murray Brown, he lived there permanently.

1928 Born 16th February
1945-46 Architectural Association, London
1946-48 Army National Service
1949-54 Royal Academy Schools, London
1955-68 Lived and worked in Spain
1973-93 Teaching at Central School of Art & Design
1989 Elected member of The London Group

1955 Turner Gold Medal for Landscape painting
1970 E. A. Abbey Scholarship
1972-73 Arts Council Awards
1979 British Council Award

Selected Solo Exhibitions
1955 Piccadilly Gallery, London
1956 Sala Vayreda, Barcelona
1956 Piccadilly Gallery, London
1957 Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt, Munich
1957 Galerie Boiserée, Cologne
1957 Univera-Haus, Nuremberg
1958 Institut fur Auslandbezienhungen, Stuttgart
1958 Piccadilly Gallery, London
1960 Stone Gallery, Newcastle
1961 Piccadilly Gallery, London
1969 Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford
1972 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
1973 Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
1973 Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh
1974 Prudhoe Gallery, London
1974 Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, Aberdeen
1979 Galerie Morner, Stockholm
1983 Oxford Gallery, Oxford
1986 Windsor Art Centre, Windsor
1989 Austin/Desmond Fine Art, London
1996 Reed's Wharf Gallery, London
1996 De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

Selected Group Exhibitions
1957 Internationale Kunstaustellung, Bayreuth, Germany
1958 Wildenstein, London
1964 Museo de Bellas Artes, Málaga
1964 Grosvenor Gallery, London
1967 Hamilton Gallery, London
1969 Annely Juda Fine Art, London
1969 Camden Arts Centre, London
1971 Art Spectrum, London
1972 John Moores 8, Liverpool
1972 Art Information Registry Touring Show
1973 Annely Juda Fine Art, London
1974 John Moores 9, Liverpool
1974 "British Painting", Hayward Gallery, London
1975 "From Britain '75", Helsinki, Finland
1979 "Awards & Purchases", Serpentine Gallery, London
1980 "Contrasts", Sandford Gallery, London
1980 "Four Painters", Chelsea School of Art, London
1980-88 Whitechapel Open, London
1980, 84 The London Group Exhibition, London
1980-92 Royal Academy Summer Show, London
1981 Central School of Art, London
1981-82 Canterbury College of Art, Canterbury
1982 "Wapping - Regard sur la Creation Plastique Britannique",
1982 Musee Municipal des Beaux-Arts, Tourcoing
1983 "Ten Artists from London", Porin Pori, Finland
1983 City University Gallery, London
1984 City University Gallery, London
1985 "Thirty London Painters", Royal Academy, London
1985 Galerie Matisse, Institut Francais, London
1985 "The Last Wapping Show", London
1985-87 "Modern British Art", Austin/Desmond Fine Art, London
1986-89 "British & Irish Modernist Art", Christie's, London
1987 Contemporary Art Society, London
1988 "Modern British Exhibition", Agnews, London
1989-94 The London Group Exhibition, London
1990 "British & Continental Painting", Christie's, London
1991 Kelper Gallery, London
1993 "Watercolour", Curwen Gallery, London
1993 "Contemporary Art", Courtauld Institute, London
1994 Whitechapel Open, London
1994 "Surface Tensions", Curwen Gallery, London
1994 Chelsea Arts Club Exhibition, London
1995 Reed's Wharf Gallery, London
1996 "Cross Currents", Barbican, London

Selected Public Collections
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum; Arts Council of Great Britain;
Bristol University; Chelsea & Westminster Hospital; County
Collection of Hertfordshire; York University; St. John's College,
Oxford; St. Mary's College, Twickenham; Nuffield Foundation;
Ateneum Museum, Helsinki, Finland; Sara Hildred Foundation
Museum, Tampere, Finland

Private Collections
Australia, Eire, England, Finland, France, Germany, Scotland, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland and USA