John Virtue

john virtue Landscape no 178
‘Landscape no.178’
Acrylic on canvas
92 x 122cm
Signed, titled and dated verso

Click image to enlarge


John Virtue is a landscape painter whose work rides a fine line between abstraction and figuration. He is honorary Professor of Fine Art at the University of Plymouth, and from 2003–2005 was the sixth Associate Artist at London’s National Gallery.

His paintings have affinities with oriental brush-painting and American abstract expressionism but above all, they relate closely to the great English landscape painters, Turner and Constable, whom Virtue admires enormously. He also refers constantly to the Dutch and Flemish landscapes of Ruisdael, Koninck and Rubens.

Virtue works from the landscape of where he happens to be living. Immediately before he moved to London, he had been living in South Devon, using the landscape of the Exe estuary as his subject.

He works solely in black and white. All of his paintings are executed on canvas, using white acrylic paint, black ink and shellac.

The artist in his own words, when resident at the National Gallery:
‘My day consists of getting up early, drawing from the South Bank of the Thames, drawing from the roof of Somerset House, and finally drawing from the roof of the National Gallery. Then I start the day and I work on the images here (in the studio) from drawings that I’m making every day.’

‘I have no interest in recording a rhetorical history of London; really I’m interested in making exciting abstractions from what I perceive. So in a sense I’m not a Londoner painting London out of any roots or any kind of affection – I’m an accidental tourist here, but I intend to go on working particularly on sites around the river Thames.’