Patrick Procktor: Art and Life (Unicorn Press, 2010)

Authorised by the artist’s Estate, this is the first biography and first major publication on Patrick Procktor RA (1936-2003), previously one of the least documented of the artists who came to prominence in London in the Sixties.

A notable painter and printmaker, Procktor was also a portraitist of distinction: his subjects include many of the Sixties and Seventies figures with whom he associated, and his portraits of the actress Jill Bennett and playwright Joe Orton are amongst the iconic images of the era. Procktor designed for the stage at the Royal Court Theatre and for Sadler’s Wells, and exhibited his paintings internationally. His travels in India, Italy, China and Egypt inspired important bodies of work in painting and printmaking.

This comprehensive and copiously-illustrated study incorporates original interview material with those who knew Procktor at all stages of his life and career, including many key names of the period. Amongst those interviewed by the author and quoted in the text are Celia Birtwell, Christopher Gibbs, Kaffe Fassett, Gilbert and George, David Hockney, John Hoyland, Lord Snowdon, David Oxtoby and Kyffin Williams. The text also includes previously-unpublished archive material and personal correspondence.

The book examines Procktor’s relationships with gallery director Bryan Robertson, the artist Michael Upton, model/pop singer Gervase Griffiths and restaurateur Kirsten Benson, whilst also documenting the wider circle of his acquaintance. A renowned dandy and wit, described by his friend Roger Cook as `a social genius’, Procktor’s friends included Cecil Beaton, Richard Buckle, Ossie Clark, Derek Jarman, David Hockney, Peter Langan, Princess Margaret, and Keith Vaughan. From his schooldays to training as a Russian linguist in the Royal Navy, to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in the late Fifties and early Sixties and his first major success in 1963, the author charts Procktor’s life and career. He describes the development of the artist’s work – much of which is intensely autobiographical – and the ways in which its critical reception was informed by Procktor’s persona. His later years were blighted by alcoholism and loneliness, but Procktor continued drawing and painting very nearly to the end.


“This handsome, copiously illustrated, well-researched and 
sensitive appraisal of
the art and artist.”
John McEwen, The Spectator

“This superbly written and illustrated new biography.”
Simon Blow, Country Life

“This book is a fascinating read.”
Andrew Lambirth, The Art Newspaper

“Procktor finally gets his due… tirelessly researched biography, rich anecdotes,and stories of Britain’s postwar queer creative class.”
Jordan Hruska, OUT (USA)

“For a number of years, Patrick Procktor was Hockney’s friend and rival. Procktor succumbed to the hedonism of the ’60s and ’70s, making Ian Massey’s bio of Hockney’s dark doppelganger something of a mixed pleasure. The work is also a great evocation of Swinging London.”
AFR Magazine (Australia)

Artist in Focus: Procktor on the ArtUK website:

All images © The Artist’s Estate, Courtesy of The Redfern Gallery, London.