30 January 1920
; Headingley, Leeds, United Kingdom *
20 March 1999
; Zennor, Cornwall, United Kingdom *
Patrick Heron was an English painter, writer and designer, based in St. Ives, Cornwall. Born at Headingley, Leeds in Yorkshire in 1920, he was the son of Thomas Milner Heron and Eulalie 'Jack' Heron (née Davies), the first of four children (Michael, Joanna and Giles). His father was a clothes manufacturer, pacifist, socialist and leading member of the Leeds Arts Club. He attended St. George's School in Harpenden and on a school visit to the National Gallery, London in 1933 saw paintings by Paul Cézanne for the first time. He immediately began to paint in a Cézanne-influenced style. Shortly after this he was asked to make designs for Cresta Silks and continued to design for Cresta until 1951. When he was 17 he attended The Slade School of Art for two days a week, returning to the West Country to draw the landscape. In World War II he registered as a conscientious objector and worked as an agricultural labourer for three years, then at the Leach Pottery at St Ives in 1944–45, where he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and many other leading artists of the St Ives School. He had just seen Matisse's The Red Studio, exhibited at the Redfern Gallery, London and soon after this completed what he later considered to be his first mature work, The Piano in 1943.
The George Braque exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1946 deeply impressed him and he wrote an essay on Braque for The New English Weekly. Then up to 1953 he spent time in Europe visiting Paris, Provence and Italy. Heron visited Braque in his Paris studio and presented him with the New English Weekly article. His first one-man exhibition was at the Redfern Gallery in London in 1947. In 1953 he organised, wrote the catalogue and exhibited in Space in Colour, an exhibition of ten contemporary artists, at Hanover Gallery, London. Following this he exhibited twelve paintings at the Il Bienal di São Paulo, Brazil. The same year he began teaching at Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and continued there until 1956. In 1956 he saw, and praised highly the American Abstract Expressionists who showed their work for the first time in England at the Tate Gallery. He was inspired by this group of eight painters, their confidence and the large scale and flatness.
A development towards abstraction had been evident in his paintings, for example, Square Leaves (1952) and Winter Harbour (1955) The effect on Heron of the New York painters, together with his move to live at Eagles Nest, overlooking the cliffs at Zennor, that year was a pivotal point in the transformation into his now characteristic language of interlinking forms; his balancing of colour and space. Heron's deepest influences were Braque, Matisse and Bonnard and he was connected first of all to the pure abstraction of European lineage, represented by Naum Gabo and Pierre Soulages.
He continued painting until the day before he died. He died peacefully at his home in Zennor, Cornwall, on 20 March 1999 at the age of 79. He was survived by both his daughters, Katharine Heron, now an architect, and Susanna Heron, a sculptor.