William Crozier (1930 - 1911)

Crozier was born in Glasgow to Irish parents and educated at the Glasgow School of Art between 1949 and 1953. On graduating he spent time in Paris and Dublin before settling in London, where he quickly gained a reputation as the 1950s equivalent of a Young British Artist through the early success and notoriety of his exhibitions of assemblages and paintings at the ICA, Drian and the Arthur Tooth galleries, with whom he had a long association.

Profoundly affected by post-war existential philosophy, Crozier allied himself and his work consciously with contemporary European art throughout the 1950s and 1960s, rather than with the New York abstractionists, who were more fashionable in the UK at the time. He was also part of the artistic and literary world of 1950s Soho, a close associate of 'the Roberts', Colquhoun and Macbryde, John Minton and William Scott, and part of the expatriate middle-European and Irish intellectual circles in London of the time. By 1961 Crozier was widely seen as one of the most exciting artists in London. He had his first one-man exhibition that year at Arthur Tooth and Sons which toured to the Kunstverein in Hannover the following year. His intellectual and painterly concerns were closely aligned to the adventurous group of abstract artists which included his close friends Roger Hilton and Terry Frost. Crozier spent 1963 in southern Spain with the Irish poet Anthony Cronin; this proved pivotal to Crozier's development as an artist. On his return to the UK, he began a series of skeletal paintings which anticipated the 'New Expressionist' German painters of the 1980s, and which were influenced by Crozier's visits to Auschwitz and Belsen. A visit to Bergen-Belsen in the 60’s left an indelible mark, and as Philip Vann has commented; for Crozier, ‘The skeleton is still very much a sentient human being: vulnerable, dignified, alone and abandoned in a landscape of astonishing beauty.' In 1964 the Arts Council included his paintings in the exhibition Six Young Painters with David Hockney, Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Bridget Riley and Euan Uglow. In 1975 Crozier was grouped alongside Francis Bacon in the important exhibition Body and Soul at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.


Based in London throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Crozier exhibited his works in London, Glasgow, Dublin and all over Europe. As many artists of the 1960s did, Crozier combined painting with teaching, first at Bath Academy of Art, (with Howard Hodgkin, Gillian Ayres and Terry Frost), then at the Central School of Art and Design (with William Turnbull and Cecil Collins), at the Studio School in New York and finally at Winchester School of Art where he led a strong centre for painting based on the European tradition. When he ceased teaching in the 1980s, Crozier's painting blossomed with a new freedom and confidence. His abstract landscapes and still life painting used sumptuous colour to convey an emotional intensity and he was endlessly concerned with the challenge of creating a new language in figurative painting.


Crozier's paintings are now in demand at exhibition and at auction. He represented the UK and Ireland overseas, and has been awarded the Premio Lissone in Milan and the Oireachtas Gold medal for Painting in Dublin in 1994. In 1991 the Crawford Art Gallery Cork and the Royal Hibernian Academy curated a retrospective of his work. He was elected to  Aosdana in 1992 and was an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. In 2005 Crozier celebrated his 75th birthday with a major exhibition in Cork to celebrate the European Capital of Culture. Here Crozier exhibited a selection of his drawing work, providing the first opportunity to see that the master of colour was also an inventive artist in black and white.


Crozier's work has recently been purchased by the National Gallery of Ireland and the Scottish National Gallery. Commenting to the Keeper of the Scottish National Gallery, in relation to the museum’s acquisition of Burning Field Essex, Crozier explained: ‘It is the custom in Essex for farmers to burn the stubble in the fields after harvest. . . making them black and dark against the skyline. It was reminiscent of those magnificent photographs of the battlefields in France and Flanders during the First World War. I have always found a fascination in this kind of desolate and ravaged landscape.’