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Malcolm Morley (British, 1931-2018)


Birth Place: London, United Kingdom

Born in London in 1931, Malcolm Morley was haunted by childhood memories of the Blitz. These memories would later mold him to design some of his most well-known pieces: the Royal Navy, the bombed city, etc. Growing up in drab post-war years, Morley spent some time in prison for theft and later attended Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts from 1952 to 1953. After attending Royal College of Art through 1957, Morley eventually left London to move to New York in 1958.

Working on light monochrome relief surfaces, Morley began to feel less confident about his work. He desired representational motifs and worked with a lessened palette from newspaper photos of battleships. He later developed a Photorealist style in 1964, which worked by accurately transferring color photos to canvas.

Morley began to practice dissolving a motif into raster surfaces and at times would paint upside-down canvases as well, linking him to his abstract beginnings. He continued to develop unusual picture creations into different performances which sometimes ended up in a defective product.

Although known for his individuality, Morley is also known as the precursor for photorealism and later was the first to coin the term 'superrealism.' His motifs at the time were known as contemporary scenes, placing him in the area of pop art. In the 1970s, while staying in Florida, he created a new technique, basing his work off of watercolors and drawing inspiration from Greek mythology.

Malcolm Morley became well-established as a neo-expressionist by the early 1980s and was the first recipient of the Turner Prize in London in 1984. He returned to his earlier motifs later that decade of planes and ships. He painted from models observed through a camera obscura system.

As the mid-1990s came, however, Morley transitioned back to exact rendering. In recent years, he continued to paint in a figurative style along with a gestural approach, turning photographic images into spatially complexity. To this day, Malcolm Morley continues to live in his adopted country of America, where he still paints actively.

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