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 Adrian Ryan  (1920 - 1998)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Adrian James Ryan  (1920-1998)

Born at Hampstead on 3 October 1920, the son of the landscape and portrait artist Vivian D Ryan.  Both of his parents were painters.  Adrian was educated at Eton and his childhood was divided between the family homes of Hintlesham Hall in Suffolk and Villa Santa Lucia at Cagnes-sur-Mer.  He studied at the Architectural Association 1938-39 and the Slade School of Art 1939-40, during its wartime evacuation to Oxford.  He was excused military service on medical grounds and got a head start on his contemporaries by setting himself up as an artist, whilst they were still in uniform.  His first studio in Tite Street, Chelsea was shared with Augustus John's son Edwin.  Ryan was taken up by the New Zealand-born dealer Sir Rex Nan Kivell at the Redfern Gallery, who gave him his first exhibition in 1943.  Ryan would be given a further four shows at the same venue over the following ten years.

Ryan was no doubt helped to a degree on his journey by financial security.  His grandfather, Sir Gerald Ryan had left a fortune from working in insurance.  The inheritance enabled Ryan to assemble an impressive collection of pictures, predominantly of the French painters with whom he felt a special affinity including Bonnard, Modigliani, Utrillo and Soutine.  Later the failure of his brother's ambitious farming projects obliged him to disperse the collection, and to seek a regular income from teaching.  

In 1945 Ryan established a studio at Mousehole in Cornwall and became associated with the nearby colony of St Ives painters.  In 1948 Graham Sutherland offered Ryan a post at Goldsmith's College in South London, a position he held until 1983.  From 1973, he also taught at Cambridge College of Art, a position he would retain until 1985.  Over the years, he produced landscapes with free, expressive brush strokes of Cornwall, France and later Suffolk. Ryan exhibited with the London Group 1942-1943 and at the Royal Academy from 1949.  He retired from teaching in 1983.  His later solo shows included the University of West Virginia in 1978, Gallery 10 in 1980, a retrospective at The Minories, Colchester in 1985, another with the National Trust 1994 and in 1996, a solo show at Eton College.

Adrian Ryan died at Camden Town, London on 15 December 1998.  He was survived by all three of his wives and by three daughters.  The biography Adrian Ryan: Rather a Rum Life by Julian Machin was published in 2009.

Information provided by Tony Copsey

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