Maurice Cockrill RA (1936-2013) was Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools from 2005-2011. This was the apogee of a long and varied teaching career, which extended from 1967 to the present and included many prestigious institutions such as the Royal College of Art, the Slade and St. Martin’s School of Art.
Cockrill changed his style several times over the course of his career, working in an increasingly abstract style, ‘Not that I won’t change again if it’s the right thing. I’m certainly not one of those artists who finds a look early on sticks to it, perhaps nervous that collectors of fans might turn against them. Early on I did precise, photorealist things. And I used to stand there, photo in one hand, No 6 sable brush in the other, making tiny marks and thinking, “This just isn’t me”. I realised I needed a more direct, physical involvement with what I was doing’.
Though Cockrill’s late works may appear abstract, Cockrill insisted ‘Every picture is about something, even if I only find the title after I’ve finished. His recent canvases are built up with layers of bold contrasting colours, often juxtaposing organic circular shapes with cutting vertical lines. He was born in Hartlepool in 1936, and grew up in and around Liverpool and the North-west. He studied at Wrexham School of Art and the University of Reading (1960-64).
Maurice Cockrill was one of the most versatile painters to have emerged in the UK since the Second World War. Restless, lyrical and challenging, his work constantly evolved, defying conventional categorization. Always at odds with both the mainstream and the avant-garde, owing to his commitment to painting and the notion of skilled work, Cockrill wa nothing if not rigorous in his approach to his art. In 1968, already in his early thirties, he destroyed everything he had produced up to that date and started again from scratch. Within twenty years the gamble had paid off, as his international reputation flourished in the 1980s with solo shows in Europe and New York.
Maurice Cockrill's work is in many private and public collections including the British Museum, Art Council of Great Britain, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and the Royal Academy of Arts. A retrospective of his work was held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1995 and a further retrospective was held at the Royal West of England Academy in 1998. Cockrill lived and worked in London.