Norman Ackroyd b. 1938

Norman Ackroyd CBE RA is an English artist known primarily for his aquatints.

Ackroyd attended Leeds College of Art from 1957-61 and the Royal College of Art, London, from 1961-64, where he studied under Julian Trevelyan. Ackroyd then lived in the United States for several years. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Art in 1988 and appointed Professor of Etching, University of the Arts, in 1994. He was elected Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 2000, and in 2007 was made CBE for services to Engraving and Printing.

Ackroyd's works from the 1960s show his interest in both Pop Art, particularly artist Jasper Johns, and Minimalism. His complex compositions from this period often integrate pre-existing imagery such as newspaper clippings.

Gradually Ackroyd abandoned the language of Pop Art; for a time his compositions simplified and grew more abstract, sometimes appearing geometric. He then began to depict and suggest naturalistic elements, hills, clouds, rainbows - though the artist uses colour only sparingly even then. Ackroyd moved away from the use of stencils and photographic transfers to pure aquatint, sometimes beginning the plate en plein air. His mature work is reminiscent of the paintings of JMW Turner, albeit with a more subtle palette.

In the 1980s Ackroyd emerged as a true landscape artist and displayed his deep affinity for the varied topographies of the British Isles. Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design showed a retrospective exhibition of these works in 2006 and also hold an archive of the artist's work. In these mature works, weather and water are explored through highly experimental compositions, in many instances technical tours de force. With variation in locale, the changeability of British atmospheric conditions and Ackroyd's intended mood, his works range from minimalist, near-abstract impressions to richly detailed views of specific places at a recognisable season. Although his work almost never includes human figures, the landscape subjects Ackroyd depicts are often those including elements of human habitation.


In scale, his prints range from tiny etchings intended to be bound into books to large scale, even huge, etchings. His preferred medium for working directly on paper is watercolour, including a recent project pairing his watercolors with poems by Kevin Crossley-Holland, published under the title 'Moored Man'. He has also designed a number of large-scale, etched reliefs in steel or bronze commissioned for architectural projects in London, Moscow, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The most recently completed project is at Great Portland Estates in London, W1; a project for the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge is underway. For another recent project, see The Stratton Street Series, Categorical Books, London, 2003 (introduction by Ian Ritchie).

The Royal Academy recently published the book 'A Line in the Water' (2009), with Ackroyd's illustrations alongside the poems of Douglas Dunn. In an interview with the artist published in 'Archipelago' (no.III, Spring 2009), Ackroyd describes his working methods in detail.

Examples of Ackroyd's artworks can be found in the collections of major museums in the UK and US, including the Tate, British Museum, V&A, and National Gallery of Art, Washington. His work is also included in the Deutsche Bank collection. He has been featured in several television programmes, including two BBC documentaries on the artist published in 1980 and 2006.