Gwyther Irwin was born on May 7, 1931, in Basingstoke, England. 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 from 1952 to 1955. He started producing his first collages in 1957 and the same year made Serendipity 2 using a technique he considered “fascinating” and “great fun.” Like Mimmo Rotella, he created collages using strips from discarded billboards that he found on roadsides. Irwin later incorporated organic materials such 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 from 1959 to 1963, Hornsey College of Art from 1966 to 1968, and the Chelsea School of Arts from 1967 and 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 in 1961; the British Painting in the Sixties exhibition, organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in 1963; the Venice Biennale, in 1964; the Painting and Sculpture of the Decade exhibition, organized by the Tate Gallery, London, in 1964; the Carnegie International Biennial, in 1967; and the International Kunstmesse of Basel and Düsseldorf in 1973. Irwin’s work belongs to some of the most important public and private collections in the world, 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. Irwin died on October 18, 2008, in Trebetherick, in Cornwall.