Adrian Heath, 1920-1992



“One of the best artists in England with an intelligence, a set of values, and an accomplishment roughly comparable to Robert Motherwell’s”. Bryan Robertson OBE. Critic and Director of the Whitechapel Gallery

“In Heath’s work…one has the feeling that the excitement is not something that is being recaptured so much as discovered and experienced as the painting progresses". Jane Rye, Biographer

Heath is well recognised today with his works included in many public collections and museums including the Tate Collection; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Whitworth Gallery, Manchester; and the Hirschhorn Museum,


During World War II he served in the RAF as a tail gunner in Lancaster bombers but spent almost the entire war as a prisoner of war at Stalag 383. During his time as a prisoner of war, he met fellow detainee Terry Frost (1915-2003) and taught Frost to paint. Heath received a few tubes of paint through the Red Cross, which he shared with Frost. They used sardine oil for their medium and brushes made from horse-hair. For canvas they employed hessian pillows and for size, barley from the camp’s soup.

Heath spent a great deal of his time during his career in Cornwall, London and Paris.His travelling would shape and inspire his work, especially combining the romantic abstraction of St.Ives and classical abstraction of London.
During the 1950s, Heath also played an important role in promoting abstract art in Britain. The immensely active member of the avant-garde group of artists aim was to lift English art from the deep insularity brought about by the second world war.

In the second half of the 1950s a new direction emerged. He also became an influential figure in the Constructive Art Movement and established his position as one of the leading painters of his generation, both in the UK and abroad. By the 1960s, Heath’s style of abstract painting had adapted. His compositions were looser with expressive brush strokes of oil and executed on large-scale canvases.

Heath taught at the Bath Academy of Art from 1955 to 1957 and at the University of Reading from 1980 to 1985. He was Chairman of the Artists’ International Association between 1955 and 1964 and sat on the panel of the Arts Council from 1964 to 1967. Heath was an enthusiastic and highly intelligent teacher.