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Gwyther Irwin was born on May 7, 1931, in Basingstoke, Hampshire. He spent his youth in Trebetherick in the north of Cornwall, where he learned to paint under Roger Hilton. In 1951 he moved to London to study at Goldmiths’ College and later at the Central School of Art and Design (1952–1955). He started producing his first collages in 1957 and the same year made Serendipity 2 via a technnique he considered “fascinating” and “great fun”; like Rotella, he created collages using strips from discarded billboards that he found on the road. Irwin later incorporated such organic materials as string and wood chippings into his work before abandoning collage altogether to take up Abstract, geometrical, and Optical painting.
Toward the end of the 1950s, he taught at Bath Academy (1959–1963), Hornsey College of Art (1966–1968), and the Chelsea School of Art (1967–1969). In 1969 he was named head of the Art Department at Brighton Poytechinic, and in 1975 he became its Director. In 1957 the artist held his first solo exhibition at Gallery One, followed by an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1958, and more shows thereafter at the Gimpel Fils, London starting in 1959. Irwin was later the subject of solo exhibitions at the New Art Centre in 1973 and in 1975.
He also participated in many group shows, including one at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1961); British Painting in the Sixties, organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1963); the Venice Biennale (1964); Painting and Sculpture of the Decade, organized by the Tate Gallery, London (1964); the Canergie International Biennial (1967); and the International Kunstmesse of Basel and Düsseldorf (1973). Irwin’s work belongs to some of the most important public and private collections worldwide, including the Tate Gallery and the Contemporary Arts Society, London; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; and the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh. The artist died on October 18, 2008.