Bryan Ingham (1936-1997) was an English painter, etcher, sculptor, and collage artist – an artist who practiced in multiple mediums and was inspired by a diversity of influences, most consistently by Cubism, by Braque, Gris and Picasso.
Ingham was born in Preston, 1936, and spent his childhood in Totley, Yorkshire’s Calder Valley. His parents worked in the clothing trade and expected Bryan to follow in their footsteps. This he briefly did, before declaring an interest in painting (and not in ‘house painting’, as Ingham senior initially understood, and as the famous Ingham anecdote goes). Ingham attended St. Martin’s School of Art, London (1957-1961), where he was taught by Clifford Webb, before moving to the Royal College of Art (1961-1964), where he was contemporary with David Hockney and Patrick Caulfied (see Artists). With the help of a Leverhulme Research Award Ingham then spent a year in Italy, exploring the sites of the great Renaissance painters, before attending a six month’s course at the British School at Rome.
On his return to England Ingham moved to Cornwall, to the Lizard Peninsula, where he rented a small cottage overlooking the sea. He would keep this remote cottage throughout his life, working on his art, cultivating the garden, cooking – this was a retreat from the world, but a place also, perhaps, of eschewal. Ingham never quite saw himself as belonging to the art establishment. He was respected at the Royal Academy – in fact in his second year he was awarded a Royal Scholarship – yet he always experienced himself somewhat as an outsider. He would make journeys to London throughout his years living on the Lizard, to sell his art, but in part because of his remoteness, it took some time before he gained the recognition his work deserves.
After a chance meeting with some German tourists to the Lizard, Ingham was invited to Worpswede, a town in northern Germany. Worpswede is famous for housing a number of writers and artists over the years – Thomas Mann; Hans am Ende; Friedrich Wilhelm Otto Modersohn – and here Ingham would work, exhibit in the Kunsthalle, and find recognition. Here, too, Ingham met Aysel Ozakin, a writer and poet, who in 1989 he would marry. The couple divorced in 1994, but they would continue a strong connection throughout Ingham’s life.
Ingham’s reputation grew and sales began to develop in Germany, and likewise in London. This was helped in no small measure through Ingham’s friendship with the art dealer and gallery owner Francis Graham-Dixon. Ingham’s work was properly marketed for the first time; sales increased and prices rose, and whilst Ingham had had some income from part-time teaching at Farnham Art College and Falmouth Art School, he was now less constrained. He always retained his first cottage, but he was now able to convert a nearby barn where he lived, before a final move to Heston where he found a collection of studios, with garden and orchard. It was here, in 1997, that Ingham died of cancer, aged 61.
Since his death, Ingham’s reputation has grown, in the UK, in Germany, and in the US. In 2006 there was a major Retrospective at the Fine Art Society, London, with paintings, etchings, collage, statues, reliefs and drawings – the full diversity. The assigning of influence is never precise: Ingham once wrote of his own work that he would ‘beg, borrow, consolidate and synthesise, to add, even, to the classical tradition of harmony and contained chance’ *. And in adding, Ingham also travelled his own road. ‘Road’ is perhaps not right. The analogy Ingham preferred in fact was ‘tree’. Before his death he recorded a Memoir – a series of conversations between himself and Joss Wynne Evans. Here he relates, re tradition and artistic progress: ‘Stick to the trunk and you’re going upwards, the boughs are going upwards quite confidently, then come the minor boughs, then the twigs’…….[you can]…trace your steps back down to a bigger branch until you feel secure there again, and then start exploring……When you get to the end of the twig you’ve nothing for it but to burst into leaf…’.* *
* Quoted by Francis Graham-Dixon: Ingham’s Obituary, Independent, 1997.
* * Bryan Ingham: Painter, Etcher, Sculptor, Joss Wynne Evans, (p 177).
Public Collections holding work by Bryan Ingham include:
Ingham’s work is privately collected world-wide. Public collections containing Ingham’s work include the V&A Museum, London; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Arts Council, London.