Roy Turner Durrant is one of the most underrated British modern artists of the 20th century and, although he has a dedicated band of admirers and collectors, he is well-deserved of greater recognition for his contribution to modern art.
Roy Turner Durrant was born on the 4th October 1925 in the village of Lavenham, Suffolk. His father (Francis Henry Durrant) was a master boot repairer who married Edna Ellen née Turner in 1924.
Durrant enjoyed art from a very early age, using his works as currency at school to swap for cigarette cards and the like. Whilst at school he had a work shown at Bury St Edmunds and after leaving school at the age of 14 he went to work at a local electrical company but continued to paint and draw in his spare time.
During World War II Durrant was part of the Suffolk Regiment.
Roy Turner Durrant had his first one man exhibition at Lavenham Guildhall in 1948. From 1948 to 1952 he attended Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts where, amongst others, he was taught by the English painter, print-maker and war artist Edward Ardizzone as well as Michael Rothenstein, John Buckland Wright and Keith Vaughan. Durrant was a contempoary of Theodore Mendez, an abstract artist who went on to teach at the college for over 30 years. Whilst attending the college Durrant was already exhibiting works in London galleries.
Originally Durrant's works were architectural and landscape based but after being influenced by other artists his art took on a more abstract form. Experimenting with a number of techniques and styles, the artist exhibited two works at the Bury St Edmund's Art Society from Lavenham in 1948 ('Lady Street, Lavenham' and 'A View on the Stour'). A recurring theme in the 1950s were landscapes of the Suffolk countryside and villages, especially Lavenham (May: Trees in Blossom, Lavenham. 1953). These works showed a neo-romantic feel, having likely been influenced by the works of the neo-romantics such as John Minton and Keith Vaughan. Subsequent works became more abstracted, with notable influences from the likes of Roger Hilton, Alan Reynolds and abstract work by Keith Vaughan. A more linear approach was to follow echoing the 'European feel' of works by Vieira da Silva. Many of these works were labelled 'inscapes' or 'heads' ('Golden Inscape Head' 1961), progressing to the use of interlocking and overlaying shapes - especially in strip form ('Tangled Greys' 1962). When creating these primarily gouache on paper works Durrant would use a metal implement to sweep defined, broad strokes out of wet paint. It is documented that these studies eched the works of Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle. More recent compositions use crisp, interlocking abstract shapes. Durrant was fond of using mixed media, especially incorporating gouache, but would sometimes produce works in oil.
In 1959 Durrant married Jean Lyell in Hampstead, London. They lived at High Street in Lavenham and had four sons. In 1960 he published a book of poetry 'The Rag Book of Love' (Scorpion Press).
From 1956 to 1963 he was employed by the engineering firm Vickers. After moving to Cambridge he took up a position at Heffers art and booksellers in the role as Art Gallery manager. He was then to become a director of the Heffer Gallery. At this time he would spend much of his time off painting, reading primarily 19th and 20th century literature and poetry or listening to Radio 3 or 4.
Durrant exhibited at the New English Art Club and from 1950 at the Royal Academy. From 1963 to 1973 he was a member of the Ipswich Art Club where he also exhibited. In 1948 he had a one man exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery in Lavenham and in the early 1950s at Kensington Art Gallery and the Gallery of British Art in Lausanne.
His style changed once more in the late 1960s and 1970s to include geometric shapes, often in earth colours or blues typical of the period. The use of collage during this period is also typical, often incorporating newspaper cuttings and headlines.
Roy Turner Durrant died in 1998 whilst living at Hurst Park Avenue, Cambridge - somewhat of a recluse. A book titled 'Roy Turner Durrant' was published in 2011.
Roy Turner Durrant frequently had works shown in the annual Royal Academy in London Summer Exhibitions and the artist's works are held in many public institutions around the world. There have been a number of exhibitions of his artworks since his death, including a one-man show in New Bond Street's Fine Art Society London in May 2008. The Tate Gallery Archive Collection holds a self portrait of the artist (TGA 8214.26 - 1953 poster paint on paper) which in the 1950s was shown at the Artists' International Association Gallery. Durrant's motto throughout life was 'ars longa, vita brevis' ('art is never ending, life is short'). It is thought he may have picked this up from an inscription in the bell tower at Lavenham Church. This was also inscribed on the artist's tombstone in Lavanham Churchyard as was his wish.
Roy Turner Durrant's works are certainly worth more than a few cigarette cards these days!
2011 Katherine House Gallery, Marlborough, Wiltshire, 22nd October - 12th November (Retrospective Exhibition major works 1950s - 1980s)
2011 The Gallery in Cork Street, London, 10th - 15th October (Retrospective Exhibition major works 1950s - 1980s)
2008 Katherine House Gallery, Marlborough, Wiltshire, Fine Art Society (Roy Turner Durrant 1925-1988)
2003 Chappel Galleries, Colchester (including 'Black and Gold Head' 1966 and 'Head' [25-1405] 1977)
1991 The Belgrave Gallery, London (solo)
1988 Gallery of British Art, Lausanne, Switzerland
1984 Loggia Gallery, London (solo)
1981 Loggia Gallery, London (solo)
1980 Old Fire Engine House, Ely
1977 University of Cambridge
1976 Woodbridge & Caius College, Cambridge
1976 Deben Gallery
1975 Loggia Gallery, London (solo)
1974 Suffolk & Cambridge Art and Design Gallery
1974 Halesworth Gallery
1974 Old Fire Engine House, Ely
1973 Loggia Gallery, London (solo)
1973 The Manor Gallery, Royston
1972 Old Fire Engine House, Ely
1972 St John's Wood Public Library
1969 University of Cambridge
1969 A.I.A. Gallery, London
1969 RI Galleries, London 'East Anglian Art Today' (part of group exhibition)
1965 Royal Academy, London (part of group exhibition)
1964 Ipswich Art Gallery, Ipswich, Suffolk (part of group exhibition)
1963 RI Galleries, London (part of group exhibition)
1962 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (part of group exhibition)
1962 AIA Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1961 Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk (solo)
1961 Drian Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1960 New Vision Centre Gallery, London
1960 New Gallery, Ipswich, Pheonix Gallery Lavenham
1960 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (part of group exhibition)
1959 Grabowski Gallery, London (solo)
1959 Royal Academy, London (part of group exhibition)
1959 Drian Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1958 Foyer Gallery, Everyman Cinema, Hampstead
1958 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (part of group exhibition)
1958 Chenil Gallery, London
1954 Leicester Galleries, London (part of group exhibition)
1957 A.I.A. Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1957 New Vision Centre Gallery, London (solo)
1957 Royal Academy, London (part of group exhibition)
1957 Leicester Galleries, London 'Artists of Fame and Promise' (part of group exhibition)
1955 Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1955 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (part of group exhibition)
1955 Walkers Art Gallery, London (part of group exhibition)
1954 Leicester Galleries, London 'Artists of Fame and Promise' (part of group exhibition)
1954 County Cinema, Sudbury
1954 Roland Browse and Delbanco Gallery, London (solo)
1954 Roland Browse and Delbanco Gallery, London 'Parallels in Modern painting' (part of group exhibition)
1953 AIA Gallery, London (solo)
1953 Parsons Gallery, Grosvenor Street, London (solo)
1952 The Coffee House, Trafalgar Square, London
1951 Norwich Castle Museum, Festival Exhibition of East Anglian Art (part of group exhibition)
1950 Royal Academy, London (part of group exhibition)
1950 Playhouse Theatre, Kidderminster
1950 Kensington Art Gallery, London
1950 Beaux Arts Gallery, 48 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1AY (solo)
1949 Cromwell Gallery, London
1948 Guildhall, Lavenham, Suffolk (solo)
Balliol College, Oxford
Bradford City Art Gallery
Carlisle Art Gallery
Castle Museum, Norwich
City Museum and Art Gallery, Gloucester
City of Bradford Art Gallery
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield
Hove Museum and Art Gallery
Imperial War Museum, London
Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro
Pembroke College, Oxford
RAF Museum, Hendon
Southampton Art Gallery
St Edmunsbury Museum
Tate Gallery, London
Trinity College, Cambridge
University of Masachusetts, Amherst
University of Adelaide, Australia
Western Australia Art Gallery
Williamson Art Gallery