Michael Ayrton

Michael Ayrton (British, 1921-1975)

Michael Ayrton was born in London, the son of poet, essayist and critic, Gerald Gould and of Barbara Ayrton Gould, the Labour politician and suffragette. He became a prolific and highly imaginative artist but also a respected critic, writer, scholar and novelist. His work first came to public attention when as a nineteen year old he designed the sets along with fellow artist, John Minton with whom he had earlier shared a studio, for John Gielgud’s wartime production of Macbeth. In 1944 he outraged critics and other artists with his radio critique of Picasso, a move for which he was never entirely forgiven by the art establishment. Although known for his sculpture, Ayrton was also a keen printmaker and designer. He illustrated many books, designing the dust-jackets for novels by William Golding and Wyndham Lewis amongst others. His work was characterized by a fascination for Greek myths later reflected in his majestic series of minotaur sculptures, drawings, and etchings, with which the artist closely identified himself. His work is held in numerous public collections, including The Tate Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Arts Council of Great Britain, The British Council, the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, Fitwilliam Museum amongst many others.