Drawing 1, Part 3; John Virtue & Deanna Petherbridge

John Virtue & Deanna Petherbridge

John Virtue and Deanna Petherbridge are two contemporary artists who represent the urban environment.

John Virtue

(1947 – )

John Virtue is a contemporary British artist who represents landscapes in monochrome. He is honorary professor of fine art at the University of Plymouth, and was an associate artist at the National Gallery between 2003-2005.

Virtue sees colour as an unnecessary distraction, hence uses only shellac black ink, and white paint.

John Virtue, No. 13 (2011-2013)

Virtue has referenced abstract expressionists, and artists such as JMV Turner as major influences on his work.

On the Artnet webpage, I found the following quoted, but without a reference, and I found it very fitting: “Virtue’s blacks and whites aren’t polarised absolutes: they drip and smear each other with gleeful impurity, much of the white flecked with a kind of metropolitan ashiness that gives the paint guts and substance, much of the black, streaky and loose, like road tar that refuses to set,” (anon).

John Virtue, (No 8), (2011-2013)

Virtue is well known for his London paintings, which were displayed in the National Gallery. These paintings focus on the London skyline, including echoes of famous landmarks in an abstract cityscape.

John Virtue at work in his studio
Copyright © John Virtue. Photo: The National Gallery.
John Virtue: London

You can see from these examples of Virtue’s work, that although the buildings and landmarks in his London cityscape are implied, they have substance and life; they tell a story and create a certain atmosphere and ambience. His approach is expressionist and quite minimalistic. I enjoy the moods his monochromatic creations convey.

Deanna Petherbridge

Deanna Petherbridge CBE is an artist, curator and writer. Her work is drawing-based (predominantly pen and ink on paper). In latter years she has focussed on writings about drawing. Her work employs architectonic metaphors and in recent years, she has become interested in reflections on place and landscape.

Around the time of the Falklands conflict, during the 1980’s, symbolic representations of war were her focus. War again became a dominant theme, with large multi panelled drawings such as The Destruction of the City of Homs, 2016 in the Tate gallery.

Deanna Petherbridge, The Destruction of the City of Homs,
Deanna Petherbridge, Continuum City, 1978. Pen and ink on paper, the Whitworth collection

Deanna Petherbridge’s drawings are very technical and very precise. They are clean and geometrical. They consist of lots of defined lines and marks. The perspectives are very complex, and despite the realism, to me it seems as though there is surrealism, too.

There are similarities between Petherbridge and Virtues’ work, in that they both deal with landscapes and cityscapes, and they also work in monochrome. But there are many juxtapositions. Virtue’s work is loose and expressionist, with implied structures and a sense of freedom and expanse. Petherbridge’s work is very precise and the many lines and geometric shapes make it seem confined and constrictive. Virtue’s paintings seems dark and brooding, and full of emotion, whereas perhaps Petherbridge’s work expresses emotion from a different place. It is interesting the way, in The Destruction of the City of Homs, that the carefully represented and constructed architectural features are being ‘destroyed’ in such a neat and tidy manner, with little obvious representation of the chaos of war and destruction. Or perhaps it is a clinically executed, minimalist sort of destruction within an expanse of clean lines and geometrics.

I have enjoyed researching both of these artists, and it is fascinating to see how differently they approach the similarities of their subject, and the methods they employ to create their masterpieces.


John Virtue, No. 13 (2011-2013) At: https://wsimag.com/art/8352-john-virtue-the-sea (Accessed 20/06/21)

anon At: http://www.artnet.com/artists/john-virtue/ (Accessed 20/06/21)

John Virtue, (No 8), (2011-2013) At: https://wsimag.com/sainsbury-centre-for-visual-arts/artworks/38438 (Accessed 20/06/21)

John Virtue at work in his studio Copyright © John Virtue. Photo: The National Gallery. At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/associate-artist-scheme/john-virtue (Accessed 20/06/21)

John Virtue: London At: https://www.kanopy.com/product/john-virtue-london (Accessed 20/06/21)

Deanna Petherbridge, The Destruction of the City of Homs,
2016 At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/petherbridge-the-destruction-of-the-city-of-homs-t14951 (Accessed 20/06/21)

Deanna Petherbridge, Continuum City, 1978. Pen and ink on paper, the Whitworth collection At: https://www.creativetourist.com/event/deanna-petherbridge/ (Accessed 20/06/21)

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