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Michael Upton [1938-2002]


[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

UPTON, Michael [1938–2002; British]

“Telephone Conversation”


oil on board / 9 1/8 inches x 7 5/8 inches

This subtle painting by British artist Michael Upton in both small and powerful. The subject — the disappearing cultural phenomenon of actual conversations on a telephone — invites comparison with Michael Paul’s similarly scaled work “People Talking without Listening”. The gallery handling his estate (Upton died in 2002) has this to say about him:

Michael Upton was born in Birmingham in 1938 and studied painting at the Royal College of Art, where his contemporaries included David Hockney. During his time at the RCA he was awarded a Leverhulme Scholarship and later went to study in Rome. He divided his activities between performance work and paintings, considering the two practices intimately connected. For most of his performance work Upton collaborated with artist Peter Lloyd-Jones, a partnership that manifested as a developing series of actions and installations throughout the 70s and 80s. He referred to his paintings as ‘domestic’ using a muted palette of four colors and concentrating on nostalgic images from his immediate environment.

During his life he exhibited in the RA Summer Exhibition and the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol. His solo shows included Yale Center for British Art (1987), the Anthony Ralph Gallery, New York (1987), and at Anne Berthoud and Cassian de Vere Cole’s galleries in London. He also taught at the Royal Academy of Art before retiring to Cornwall due to severe ill health.

Upton died in 2002 aged 64. A posthumous exhibition of his paintings took place at The Henry Peacock Gallery in 2004.

This work was exhibited during 1987 at the Roger Ramsay Gallery in Chicago, from which it found its way to Agincourt.

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