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‘Self-portrait’ 1995


“I’m trying to do something that I didn’t know was there till I’d seen it. When I see a cloud I try to do it as though I didn’t know what clouds are.”




Philip Sutton was born in 1928 in Poole, Dorset. He grew up in the East End of London, his father worked selling signs door to door. On leaving school at 14, he worked in a drawing office before completing his national service during the Berlin airlift. 

As a young man, Philip studied under William Coldstream at The Slade School of Fine Art in London, where his contemporaries included Craigie Aitcheson, Michael Andrews and Euan Uglow. There he met Heather Cooke, and in 1953 they were married. His work attracted curiosity at The Slade and he won the Summer Composition Prize. While studying there, he held an exhibition of paintings in the library, at Heather’s suggestion, his lively colours brightening the walls. This would be when John Russell Taylor, the art critic, would see his work for the first time.    

Winning scholarships to paint abroad, Philip travelled to Spain, France and Italy. While in France, he and his wife went to see cave paintings there, camping outside. This sparked his interest in prehistoric art, which continues to this day.     

On his return to England, he began teaching at The Slade, he would work there as an art teacher from 1954 to 1963. 

The fifties saw him elected as a member of The London Group and Philip held his first solo show at Roland, Browse and Delbanco in Cork Street. He would go on to have many one man exhibitions in London and around the UK throughout his career, as well as shows in France, Germany, Australia and the US. He would also sell paintings to public collections such as The Tate and The UK Parliament.

In this decade, his wife Heather gave birth to their first 3 children (their fourth would be born in 1960) and they lived for a time in Snape. Peter Pears, who had taken a keen interest in Philip’s work, had offered to arrange a house for them there. The couple were very happy at his suggestion, the countryside of Suffolk would be an interesting place for Philip to paint and they were struggling to find an affordable home for their growing family.

They would then move to London, where they lived in Battersea for many years. The family home was a vibrant place.

The artist has found colours for his unusual palette with its fresh hues wherever he is in the world. In 1963, he and his wife travelled to Australia and Fiji with their 4 young children. They lived for over a year on the South Pacific island and Philip brought back an exhibition of brilliant tropical landscapes. Heather made a documentary film about their life there with an 8mm camera.

Back in the UK, Philip continued to delight exhibition-goers with his joy at putting brush to canvas. 

In 1965 the book “Private View” came out,  featuring Sutton alongside other British artists, with photographs by Lord Snowden of the painter and his family at their home in London.

Often the family spent part of the year in Cornwall, the artist would paint the landscape there, as well as the family portraits he so enjoyed, his curiosity ever lively. There he found inspiration for woodcuts that show his eye for shapes as well as colours. 

He has also produced many etchings as well as atmospheric charcoal drawings and throughout his life has filled hundreds of sketchbooks with moments of sensitive observation.

In 1977, Philip was elected Associate Royal Academician and an exhibition of his work was held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. That year the Arena Programme made a film about his art. 

In 1979 he toured Israel with a group of British artists, a country he had travelled to and painted in the 1950’s. He also designed the poster and banner for the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition that year.

In the 80’s, Philip was as enthusiastic about his work as ever. He began by spending 4 months painting in Australia, creating enormous canvases of the Great Barrier Reef, with immense schools of fish dashing by.

Then he would go on to paint watercolours in Ireland, doing drawings along the way in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper.

In the years to follow, he was commissioned by Shell Oil to do 2 tapestries and he would create the logo for Investors in Industry (3i), as well as designing a wall of tiles at NMB Bank in Amsterdam.

In the late eighties, Philip took an interest in painting ceramics and began working with Jean-Paul Landreau on a collection of pots.

He then received a commission to create a set of stamps for the Royal Mail, an interesting prospect for such a prolific correspondent, Philip always enjoys sending postcards and little sketches to his family and friends.

The artist continued to hold many solo exhibitions during this decade, with Roland, Browse and Delbanco and an array of other galleries in the UK and around the world.

In 1988, Sutton was elected Royal Academician. He would also design a set of ceramics for the RA restaurant and shop. 

In 1989 he and his wife Heather moved to Wales where they would live together in Pembrokeshire. There, Philip found a wide range of subjects that would give him delight. There was a field in front of the house and he would spend days out there painting the tall grasses and ever-changing trees with his joyous colours. 

He continued to work on painting ceramics in the early 90’s and travelled to Italy to paint watercolours, his delicate touch giving his work in this medium an unusual lightness. 

Philip had many exhibitions in Wales and other parts of the UK during this decade as well as continuing to exhibit in London, including at the Royal Academy. 

He designed a poster for the London Underground, Soho Square tube station, brightening, for passers by, their journey with his brush. 

After several years of work, Sutton’s “My Shakespeare” exhibition toured England and his new paintings inspired by the playwright’s work would adorn the newly constructed International Shakespeare Globe Centre in London.

Philip continued to paint family and friends at any opportunity, his studio, with it’s jolly atmosphere, a place where the model could sit in wonder at this unusual creative space.

He worked on energetically in the 2000s, fascinated with the Welsh landscape, he would often go to cliffs on the coast near his home. There, he found a way for the curiosity about the rocks he saw and his interest in Darwin to meet, in his unique paintings of shapes in the rocks and the sea beyond. 

Philip was painting almost everyday and was interested in looking at his subjects as if for the first time. His new works gave fresh light to the gallery walls. In this decade, he began to hold exhibitions at the Richmond Hill Gallery, as well as continuing to have shows in Cork Street and at the Royal Academy, including an exhibition of his woodcuts which went on to tour Britain.

The RA published the book “Philip Sutton Life and Work” in 2008, bringing together recent and early paintings with the story of his life’s work and experiences.

In the early 2010’s, the film “Wonder” documented his thoughts about being an artist at his home and out drawing in Wales. 

Philip would visit Crete with Heather, a place they had travelled to together in the 90’s to study the island’s wildflowers. The sketches and watercolours he brought back led to an exhibition of Cretan landscapes. On large canvases, the Greek hillsides lit up with his balance of lively colours. 

He and his wife Heather moved to Dorset in the mid 2010’s, living together in Bridport, where he continued to paint and draw in his studio everyday. There he held 2 exhibitions at the Bridport Arts Centre. During the first, celebrating his 90th birthday, a screening was held of Heather’s “Philip Sutton Working in Fiji” film. The second show focused on his interest in Shakespeare, with paintings and drawings hung throughout the building for the local community and visitors to enjoy. The artist would give talks about his life and work at both exhibitions, taking interest in the questions posed to him. He also held 2 exhibitions at a private gallery in West Bay during this time.

In this decade, he established a website and gained an online following on social media, regularly posting updates and pictures of his work.

Philip is now living near Bridport, in West Bay and at 92 he continues to be a prolific painter, brightening his studio with vibrant birds and images of his home. He also still enjoys putting quill to ink and lightly touching the feather to paper, or shading, with coloured pencils, a jolly sketch. Despite the difficult situation he is in, having been unable to leave his residential home for many months, he is enthused by his work and remains upbeat.

With all upcoming exhibitions cancelled, the artist opened his own gallery in the winter of 2020, The Philip Sutton Gallery in St. Michael’s Art and Craft Quarter in Bridport. The inaugural exhibition brought together a selection of his paintings from the last 20 years.

In the spring of 2021, Philip held an exhibition of his unique woodcuts at the gallery. It coincided with Dorset Art Weeks and was featured among the events.


‘Heather’ 1970


Click below to open the timeline.

| Timeline

1928 Born 20 October in Poole, Dorset and brought up in Leyton, East London

1942–45 Leaves school and works in the drawing office of the Norris Warming Company, Bloomsbury

1945–48 National Service at RAF Cosford, Shropshire and Berlin

1948–53 Slade School of Fine Art, London

1952 Wins Slade Summer Composition Prize

1953 Marries Heather Cooke at St Pancras Register Office, London

1953–54 Travel scholarships to Spain, France and Italy

1954–63 Teaches at Slade School of Fine Art, London

1955–58 Lives in Snape, Suffolk

1956 Elected Member of the London Group
First solo exhibition, Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1958 Returns to London
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1959 Geffrye Museum, London

1960 Retrospective, City Art Gallery, Leeds
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1962 Stone Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Lane Gallery, Bradford
57 Gallery, Edinburgh
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1963 David Jones Gallery, Sydney
Gallery A, Melbourne
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1963–64 Travels to Australia and Fiji
Heather makes the film Philip Sutton Working in Fiji

1965 Roland Browse and Delbanco, London
Private View book

1966 Curwen Gallery, London

1967 Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London
London Arts Gallery, Detroit

1969–79 Spends part of every year in Falmouth, Cornwall

1970 Park Square Gallery, Leeds
David Jones Gallery, Sydney
Art Centre, Folkstone
Arnolfini, Bristol

1971 Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London
Oxford Gallery, Oxford

1972 Battersea District Library, London
Studio Prints, London
Compendium Galleries, Birmingham

1973 Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London
David Jones Gallery, Sydney
Peterloo Gallery, Manchester

1974 J. P. Lehmans Gallery, London

1975 Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

1977 Elected Associate Royal Academician
Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London
BBC Arena film

1979 Tours Israel with a group of British artists
Designs poster and banner for Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
Browse and Darby, London
Festival Gallery, Bath
Beaux Arts, Bath

1980 Travels to Australia for four months
David Jones Gallery, Sydney
Margaret Fisher Gallery, London

1981 Browse and Darby, London
Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide

1982 Royal Academy of Arts, London
Christopher Hull Gallery, London
Browse and Darby, London
Bury St Edmunds Gallery
Contemporanea Gallerie Fur Moderns Kunst, Germany

1983 Paints watercolours in Ireland
John Brinkley Fellows Exhibition, Norwich

1984 Designs tapestry for Shell
Browse and Darby, London
Beaux Arts, Bath

1985 Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London
Friends’ Room, Royal Academy of Arts, London
The Chapter House, Lichfield Cathedral
Designs logo for Investors in Industry (3i)

1986 Designs second tapestry for Shell
Designs wall of tiles for NMB Bank, Amsterdam
Cambridge Gallery, Cambridge

1987 Works on ceramics with Jean-Paul Landreau at the Fulham Pottery, London
Designs set of stamps for the Post Office
Odette Gilbert Gallery, London
Beaux Arts, Bath

1988 Elected Royal Academician
Designs ceramics for Royal Academy restaurant and shop
Travels to New Zealand
Galerie Joel Salaun, Paris

1989 Moves to Manorbier, South Pembrokeshire
Beaux Arts, Bath

1990 Works on ceramics with Jean-Paul Landreau in Wales
Paints watercolours in Italy
Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold

1992 Royal Academy of Arts, London
Agnew’s, London

1993–94 Oriel Theatre, Clwyd, Mold, Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth; Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire

1995 Tenby Museum and Art Gallery

1997 ‘My Shakespeare’, Royal Academy of Arts, London
International Shakespeare Globe Centre, London
Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
Berkeley Square Gallery, London

1998 Publication of Philip Sutton RA, His Family and His Friends

1999 Berkeley Square Gallery, London

2000 Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold

2001 Piano Nobile Gallery, London

2002 Albany Gallery, Cardiff

2004 Gallery 27, London;
Gallery 11a, Leamington Spa

2005–6 Royal Academy of Arts, London;
The Art Gallery and Museum, The Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa;
National Assembly Building, Cardiff

2006 Richmond Hill Gallery, London

2007 Richmond Hill Gallery, London

2008 Publication of Philip Sutton Life and Works
Richmond Hill Gallery, London
Gallery 27, Cork St., London
Cork Street Gallery, 28 Cork St., London
Dover Street Arts Club, London

2009 Richmond Hill Gallery, London
Cork Street Gallery, 28 Cork St., London

2010 Richmond Hill Gallery, London
Cork Street Gallery, 28 Cork St., London

2011 Richmond Hill Gallery, London
Cork Street Gallery, 28 Cork St., London

2012 Richmond Hill Gallery, London

2013 Richmond Hill Gallery, London

2014 Sladers Yard, West Bay (Bridport)

2017 Sladers Yard, West Bay (Bridport)

2018 Bridport Arts Centre

2019 Bridport Arts Centre

2020 – 2021 The Philip Sutton Gallery, Bridport

2021 The Philip Sutton Gallery, Bridport

2021 – 2022 Sladers Yard Gallery, West Bay (Bridport)