William Crozier, the Scottish-born Irish artist has died age 81. Crozier created beautiful landscapes overcoming the boundaries between representational and abstract genres. He was educated at the Glasgow School of Art between 1949 and 1953.
His work often contained references to nature, although in later years he moved towards a more representational language. Born in the Glasgow suburb of Coker on May 5th, 1930 by 1935 the family had moved to Troon, a coastal town in Ayrshire. Crozier’s interest in art developed early in life. He was encouraged by Sir Alexander Walker, a well known local art collector and the chairman of Marr College, the school he attended. William Irvine, whom he’d met in junior school became a lifelong friend, sharing his artistic interests and also becoming a career painter. Crozier was influenced by a Picasso-Matisse exhibition. Irvine and Crozier visited Paris together to see explore Modernism, while still in their teens. Van Gogh was also another artist who interested him, as was the Russian abstract artist, Kazimir Malevich, “the greatest influence I ever had”. Crozier traveled around Ireland before enrolling at Art college. While studying, he was struck by the existentialist writings of Sartre and befriended the established artist William Gear. He also met the celebrated contemporary Scottish artists MacBryde and Colquhoun, they later became friends when Crozier was part of the Soho art scene.
Following his graduation Crozier moved to London and in 1949 and 1953. He spent time in Paris and Dublin before settling in London permanently. He quickly built a reputation through the early success and notoriety of his exhibitions of assemblages and paintings at the ICA, Drian and the Arthur Tooth galleries. Profoundly affected by post-war and existential philosophy, Crozier allied himself and his work consciously with contemporary European art throughout the 1950s and 1960s, rather than with the New York abstractionists, who were more fashionable in the UK at the time. He was also part of the artistic and literary world of 1950s Soho, a close associate of ‘the Roberts’, Colquhoun and MacBryde, John Minton and William Scott, and part of the expatriate middle-European and Irish intellectual circles in London. Crozier spent 1963 in southern Spain with the Irish poet Anthony Cronin; this proved pivotal to Crozier’s development as an artist. On his return to the UK, he began a series of skeletal paintings which anticipated the ‘New Expressionist’ German painters of the 1980s, and which were influenced by Crozier’s visits to Auschwitz and Belsen.
Based in London throughout the swinging 60s, Crozier exhibited his works in London, Glasgow, Dublin and all over Europe. Crozier combined painting with teaching, first at Bath Academy of Art, (with Howard Hodgkin, Gillian Ayres and Terry Frost), then at the Central School of Art (with William Turnbull and Cecil Collins), at the Studio School in New York and finally at Winchester School of Art where he led a strong centre for painting based on the European tradition. When he ceased teaching in the 1980s, Crozier’s painting blossomed with a new freedom and confidence. His abstract landscapes and still life painting useD sumptuous colour to convey an emotional intensity and he was endlessly concerned with the challenge of creating a new language in figurative painting. Crozier’s paintings are now in demand at exhibition and at auction. He represented the UK and Ireland overseas, and has been awarded the Premio Lissone in Milan and the Oireachtas Gold medal for Painting in Dublin in 1994. In 1991 the Crawford Art Gallery Cork and the Royal Hibernian Academy curated a retrospective of his work. He was elected to Aosdana in 1992 and is an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. In 2005 Crozier celebrated his 75th birthday with a major exhibition in Cork to celebrate the European Capital of Culture. Here Crozier exhibited a selection of his drawing work, providing the first opportunity to see that the master of colour was also an inventive artist in black and white. He died peacefully aged 81 at home on 12 July 2011. His funeral service is to be held in Wickham on 19 July 2011