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Maurice Cockrill in The Collection of Matthew Rutenberg

British poet and artist Maurice Cockrill (1936-2013) moved to London in 1982, working in Bridget Riley’s old studio as he pursued a style of Expressionism that had occupied his work in the late 70s as he moved away from Realism. Born in Hartlepool, County Durham, Wales, Cockrill had a restless and unsettled youth, moving often for his father’s work. After a series of jobs at factories and building sites, Cockrill enrolled at the Wexham School of Art to pursue his passion for art. Following art school, he moved to Liverpool where he would live, teach and work for the next eighteen years. His work during this period was within the photorealist idiom, but as the decade wore on, Cockrill’s style became looser and more atmospheric. The move to London would be the catalyst for what would become his style as he challenged himself in the more demanding arena of the London art world. His work in the 1980s melded expressionism with the revival of interest in figurative painting. During this period, Cockrill painted a series of large-scale works based on allegorical, historical and mythological subjects. These works were as difficult and demanding to make as they were for the viewer to digest and their commercial success was limited. His work gradually became softer again in the 1990s, moving away from figuration and towards a mellower version of his earlier expressionism with a focus on the landscapes of his youth in Wales. It is perhaps Cockrill’s interest in Neoclassical subject matter and the landscape that attracted Matthew Rutenberg to his work, as Rutenberg collected heavily in both these genres. Cockrill’s Broken River, from 2003, is an example of his treatment of a natural landscape in his loose, abstract style. Cockrill was elected to the Royal Academy in 1999, and as Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 2004.

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