John Bainbridge Copnall (1928 – 2007) is best known for his often large-scale abstract expressionist paintings produced during the 1980s and his 'stripe' series from the 1970s - also sometimes created on a grand scale. He was the son of Edward Bainbridge Copnall the successful artist and sculptor.
John Copnall was born in Sinfold in West Sussex and initially started an education in architecture. He didn't have the necessary requirements for such a career and used his National Service as an excuse to follow a career as a professional artist.
Copnall began his art studies at the Sir John Cass School of Art in London under the tutelage of his father and in 1949 at the Royal Academy School under the artist Sir Henry Rushbury. At his final year he won the Turner Gold Medal for Landscape Painting.
In 1954 Copnall visited Spain with his artist friend Bert Flugelman. Although meant to be a short visit, Copnall ended up staying 14 years - the allure of the landscape having a profound effect on his art. Copnall produced many works in Spain concentrating on landscapes but becoming increasingly abstract throughout his stay. During the 1960 Copnall's works were almost entirey abstract but still representative of the Spanish landscape. He experimented with media such as plaster and concrete to produce ever more rustic and abstract works. This period saw a noticible increase in the size of works created by the artist - likely an influence of the American Abstract Expressionists who often created works on enormous canvases. During his stay, Copnall held a number of exhibitions in Spain, Germany and England.
Copnall became increasingly influenced by Abstract Expressionism on his return to England in 1968. At this point of his career he was creating vast canvases on cotton duck using acrylic paint. These works were often striped - usually vertically as gravity was used in the production process to allow the paint to run down the canvases. The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase in colour use with large canvases of lines and shapes produced quickly with the brush. Often Copnall would work over areas leaving an outline of the original colour in many cases.
Copnall held a teaching post at London's Central School of Art and Design in London for 20 years and during this period set up studio in the old Spratts Dog Food warehouse in Bow. He held a solo exhibition called 'Reflections, Orbits and Radiances' in 1996 and was elected to the London Group in 1988.
2022 saw two important sales of John Copnall's work through London auction house Bonhams. The works had descended through the family and the first sale - the prestigeous 'British. Cool.' auction - produced very healthy prices indeed. Fifteen works in all sold at the event and included a number of large canvases such as 'Yellow and Coloured Stripes' (likely produced in the 1970s) and measuring an astonishing 163 x 248.5cm and two large bright canvases designed to be hung diamond-wise. A second sale later in the year saw one of Copnall's in pride of place on the front cover of the auction catalogue.