Basil Beattie

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Basil Beattie RA (born 1935) is a British artist and prominent Royal Academician best known for his exploration of gestural abstraction. Recently the recipient of a dedicated gallery at Tate Britain, the artist’s works on paper make use of complex architectural motifs such as stairs, tunnels and other apertures.

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Early Life and Training

Basil Beattie was born in 1935 in West Hartlepool. He attended the West Hartlepool College of Art from 1950 until 1955, before continuing his education at the Royal Academy schools between 1957 and 1961.

Artistic Practice

Early on in his career Beattie was a prominent member of a collective of artists whose works continued the legacy of Abstract Expressionism in Britain. His work in the 1960s and early 1970s was heavily influenced by The New American Painting, an exhibition held at the Tate in 1959 – displaying an enthusiasm for work expansive in both scale and subjectivity. By the mid-1990s Beattie had abandoned a purely formal approach and begun to develop a new form of allusive abstraction, distinguishing himself from his contemporaries.

Beattie’s work came to be characterised by the inclusion of recurrent motifs – some recognisable as ladders, doors and stairs, others far more elusive and abstract. In either case, these strongly defined motifs lend psychological and physical complexity to his work through their evocations of space and time. Whilst Beattie is best known for his abstract paintings featuring architectural motifs, his works on paper have formed a significant part of his practice where a deployment of earthy tones and assertive, gestural forms remain equally compelling.

Selected Exhibitions and Collections

Beattie became a Royal Academician in 2006 and was later elected to become a Senior Royal Academician in 2010. He has twice been shortlisted for the Jerwood Prize, in 1998 and 2001, and once for the Charles Wollaston Award in 1990. He has had many solo and group exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, London and the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings. His work can be found in numerous private and public collections including those of Arts Council England, the Contemporary Art Society, the Royal Academy Collection and the Tate.