Who Is Gordon Snee?

March 4, 2015

Gordon Snee painted between 1950 and 2003. He rarely exhibited his work. It was only after his death in 2013 that his vast legacy of paintings, drawings, maquettes and other works came to light.

They revealed that Gordon Snee is a master of form and colour, who should be considered alongside the finest British post-war abstract painters.

Gordon Snee was born in 1931 in Burnley, Lancashire, into a working class family who worked in the cotton mills. The family moved to Gainsborough, Linconshire when Gordon Snee was six. He was the first of his family to be educated beyond the age of thirteen. In 1948 he won an academic scholarship to the Slade School of Art, where he won several prizes. In 1954 he exhibited with the London Group and in 1967 he was a John Moores Prize-winner.

The 1960s saw the rise of conceptual art, minimalism, political art, installations and art-happenings. Modernism was said to have failed, and death of painting was announced. In the media-saturated arts world, artists were seen as heroic oddballs and celebrities. Snee, by contrast, saw himself as a crafts-based abstract painter, simply putting on canvas what his eye experienced.

By the early 1970s, Gordon Snee and the metropolitan art world had grown indifferent to one another. He moved back to Lincolnshire, and set up a studio at his family home.

For twenty years, Snee commuted by train every week from Gainsborough via Sheffield to his teaching work at Manchester College of Art. It is clear from his sketchbooks that this journey was a time of deep contemplation and reflection for him.

He took early retirement in 1983 and then for twenty years he painted full-time. His last major works were completed in 2003, and he continued to draw and sketch until 2013, the year that he died.




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