The first retrospective of British artist Victor Willing since his death will go on show later this month, charting each decade of his tumultuous life and career.
The exhibition at Hastings Contemporary will feature large-scale paintings that illustrate every phase. It begins with Willing’s varied artistic output from training in the late 1940s and early 1950s, his life in Portugal with his young family through the 1960s, and their return to London in the mid-1970s through to late 1980s and his untimely death from multiple sclerosis.
Liz Gilmore, director at Hastings Contemporary, says: “This hugely important exhibition, commanding almost the entire gallery space puts Victor Willing back into the public spotlight. Willing is an artist who has and continues to inspire generations of artists.”
Marked out as a star pupil at the Slade School of Fine Art, it had a profound influence on his professional and personal life. It was here that he met Paula Rego and worked alongside the celebrated Slade Director, William Coldstream. Plus fellow students and friends Euan Uglow, Michael Andrews, Craigie Aitchison and Peter Snow.
During his time at the Slade, Willing came to know artist Francis Bacon and the renowned art critic David Sylvester who described him as “a sort of spokesman for his generation”. While still a student Willing’s work was included in two exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art. He had his first solo show at the prestigious Hanover Gallery just one year after graduating.
In 1957, Willing moved to Ericeira, Portugal to be with Paula Rego and their family where theyremaineduntiltheCarnationRevolutionin1974. During these years, as their family grew, Willing’s work went through a profound change and the exhibition will feature key works produced in this period between 1957 and 1974.
Following the political revolution and economic crisis in Portugal in 1974, the family returned to London, and Willing created work with a renewed urgency until his untimely death in 1988.
The exhibition will feature works from Willing’s residency at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition in 1987 curated by Sir Nicholas Serota. Writing about Willing’s work, Sir Nicholas Serota has stated: “In a bright generation Victor Willing burned brighter than most and his paintings continue to demonstrate that this was no shooting star but rather a fiery comet which would eventually guide us all”.
You can discover more about his life and work at Victor Willing: Visions from 19 October at Hastings Contemporary. The show will run until 5 January 2020.
Victor Willing, Standing Nude, 1955, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
Victor Willing, Night, 1978, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Victor Willing, Swing, 1978, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, on loan from Colin St John Wilson, since 2004
Victor Willing, Untitled, 1961, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate
Victor Willing, Winter Machine, 1956, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London