John Golding (1929-2012)
John Golding was an Anglo-Mexican artist, brought up from early childhood in Mexico. Golding's mother’s family (née Hamer) was the first British family in Mexico. They arrived in the early 19th Century, before the independence from Spain. As a young adult, he met Leonora Carrington, the expatriate surrealist who had made her home in Mexico during the Second World War. Through Carrington he got to know filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the poet Octavio Paz, as well as the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera (whom he exhibited alongside at the Galeria de Antonio Souza in 1958) and Juan O’Gorman. But of this eclectic circle it was the bold work of José Clemente Orozco that resonated most deeply with Golding, who he would continue to cite as his greatest source of inspiration throughout the rest of his life. While studying for his BA at the University of Toronto, Golding paid regular visits to New York, familiarizing himself with the collections of the Guggenheim and Metropolitan museums, and above all with the displays in the Museum of Modern Art, which were his formal introduction to European modernism. He undertook postgraduate studies at the Courtauld Institute in London between 1951 and 1957, with a break between 1953-4 when he returned to Mexico City to lecture and paint in the art department of the American University.
In 1953 he saw the major show of Cubism in Paris and decided to write his doctoral thesis on the formative years of the movement, the subsequent book won the approval of both Braque and Picasso, and became a cornerstone in Golding's life. After Golding completed his PhD, he spent some time in Italy and then Mexico, where he earned some recognition as a young painter, exhibiting with artists like Carrington, Rufino Tamayo, Gunther Gerzso and Francisco Toledo.
Although Golding was dedicated to his work as an artist, the acclaim for his initial book on Cubism inevitably drew him into academic life and he returned to the UK to teach art history at the Courtauld Institute in 1962, and was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge in 1976. In 1981 the Royal College of Art offered him the position of senior tutor in the painting school. Golding’s approach to art history was very much conditioned by his own practice as a painter, which nurtured an understanding of art derived from intent looking,
In a career that spanned almost sixty-years, Golding was the subject of a series of one-man exhibitions at major galleries, including Annely Juda, Nigel Greenwood, and Mayor Rowan; the Oxford Museum of Modern Art; as well as galleries in Tokyo, Sydney, and the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven. His work was additionally shown alongside Bridget Riley, Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, David Hockney and Richard Hamilton in seminal group exhibitions such as British Painting ’74 at the Hayward Gallery, and British Painting 1952-77 at the Royal Academy. Golding’s paintings and drawings are currently held in the collections of the Tate, the Fitzwilliam, and the V&A, as well as in public collections in the US, Australia, and Canada. However, the majority of his artisitic output—some 200 paintings and 300 works on paper—is currently held by The John Golding Artistic Trust (JGAT).
Golding was appointed CBE in 1992 and elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994. Between 1984 and 1991 he was a trustee of the Tate Gallery.
Golding in his studio, 1983
Photograph: Becky Cohen