Michael Ayrton (1921-1975)

Ayrton was an English artist and writer who worked as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic and broadcaster.

He was also a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on the 1942 John Gielgud production of Macbeth at just 19 years old. He designed and illustrated Wyndham Lewis’ The Human Age trilogy. He also collaborated on projects with Constant Lambert and William Golding.

In 1977 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery held a major retrospective of his work which subsequently went on tour.

Michael Ayrton (1921-1975), St. Anthony, No. XXI, 1942


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12 ¼ x 11 in (31 x 28 cm)
Dated December 1942

Collections: Elizabeth Ayrton; With Christopher Hull,1986; Julian Wannell ; Christies March 8,1991(109); Andrew Burt

Literature: Peter Cannon-Brookes Michael Ayrton-An illustrated commentary 1978 (plate 14)

Ayrton was obsessed with the story of St Anthony, the Saint tormented with demonic visions. Throughout the first half of the 1940’s he portrayed the subject in a variety of media, and on this apparently one- off occasion even used slate. He was clearly attracted to the story by the parallels he saw with his own life and the features of the saint are his own, charged with the spirituality of the Northern Artists Ayrton admired such as Durer and Grunewald. Ayrton’s large painting of St Anthony,The masterpiece of his war -time painting was bought by The Tate in 1983.

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