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Sunday, March 21, 1999 Published at 00:29 GMT


Heron, master of colour and light, dies

Evoking space through colour: Two of Heron's works

One of the UK's leading abstract painters Patrick Heron has died, aged 79.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery and a longtime friend of Heron, said the artist had died at his home near St Ives, Cornwall.

"Heron was one of the most influential figures in post-war British art," Mr Serota said.

"He was an enormously engaging man who remained very young right to the end of his life and was passionate about painting."

He said that the gallery's major retrospective of the artists work, staged last year, had confirmed Heron's place in the British art world.

[ image: Maverick: Heron ignored many English artistic traditions]
Maverick: Heron ignored many English artistic traditions
Born in Leeds, Heron's family moved to Cornwall when he was five years old.

In later interviews, he said his art, which became increasingly dominated by the use of bright singular areas of colour, was influenced by the quality of light and colour he found in the Cornish landscape.

The young boy fell in love with the family home, Eagle's Nest, where he spent hours filling books with paintings of the garden.

After studying at London's Slade School of Art, he returned to Cornwall with his wife, Delia Reiss, after their marriage in 1945. They settled in the former Heron family home. The couple had two daughters though Heron's wife died in 1979.

St Ives group

Heron became a prominent figure in the St Ives group of artists, which also included Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and became heavily influenced by French artists including Matisse.

[ image: Inspiration: Artist loved his home]
Inspiration: Artist loved his home
During the 1960s he argued that it was this group of artists that had influenced the US abstract painters, including Jackson Pollock, and not the other way around as widely believed.

His earlier abstract works slowly gave way to more bold use of colour.

"Colour is both the subject and the means, the form and the content, the image and the meaning in my painting," he once said.

He continued painting in the 1990s and even included one of his most recent works in the Tate show.

At the same time, he became a passionate writer on various causes - including protection of the Cornish landscape - following.

He variously described himself as a fabian, socialist and pacifist and was a conscientious objector during WWII.

In an interview at home with the Daily Telegraph newspaper last year, Heron said: "Looking at something is more interesting than doing anything else.

"I could just sit in this chair for the rest of my life, and be totally entertained."

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