ARTHUR BALLARD (1915 - 1994)

Arthur Ballard, despite his charismatic presence throughout the period covered by the exhibition, remains something of an enigma.


An army boxing champion, who saw service in North Africa and the Middle East during WWII, Ballard was the son of a Liverpool furniture dealer who won a scholarship the Liverpool College of Art’s junior school in 1930. A travelling scholarship took him on the first of two extended trips to Paris in 1935.


Together with other servicemen he exhibited at the British Institute in Cairo in 1943 and the following year in the same city at a United Nation’s art exhibition alongside William Gear and others.


Ballard was invited to join the painting staff at the college’s junior school in 1946 before moving to the senior school’s Foundation Studies in 1950, when he was an exhibitor with the Sandon Studios Society.


His figurative work of the early 1950s drew on the realism of his left-wing leanings and a developing involvement with the nearby Welsh landscape. Ballard’s increasingly semi-abstract style accelerated to uncompromising abstraction following an extended Paris sabbatical in 1958 and exposure to post-war School of Paris artists.


Best known at his death as a tutor of John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, Ballard, who was known to conduct tutorials in the nearby Ye Cracke pub, had been with a major London gallery since the mid-1950s, was a successful entrant to the first three John Moores exhibitions in 1957, 1959 and 1961 and a contemporary influence on Don McKinlay.


However, his 1950s work was perhaps of its time rather than at the forefront of change and he appears to have been wrong footed by the advent of Pop and Conceptual Art, leading to a return to a sporadic figurative painting practice, such as the mid-1960s Boxers, while at the same time running the Foundation Studies course and becoming president of the Liverpool Academy in 1965.


As Adrian Henri commented: “As head of Liverpool College of Art's Foundation Studies department he displayed a theatre producer's eye for casting, often of people he had little in common with artistically: conceptual artist Keith Arnatt, poets Roger McGough and Henry Graham, painters Don McKinlay, Sam Walsh, Maurice Cockrill and myself were all employed by him in the sixties.”


The Bohemian-loving Ballard spent most of his adult life in Hoylake, Wirral. An ex-communist, who lived a conventional lifestyle, in 1966 following the death of his first wife, he married former student, Carol Ballard, with whom he was together until 1979. She was the subject of a series of paintings including 1973’s Punch and His Judy No. 3, which Henri regarded as Ballard’s “last major work”, and full of the contradictions that made Ballard “such a charismatic figure”.


Echoing sentiments about Ballard made by John Willetts in his seminal 1967 book about the Liverpool art world Art In The City, Henri remarked that Ballard’s “… lack of self-belief in someone with such a powerful personality and abundant technical gifts is the ultimate mystery of this enigmatic artist.”


After a trip to New York visiting his artist son Richard, Ballard retired from the art college in the early 1980s and spent the last years of his life in Corwen, North Wales. Ballard died in 1994 and a career retrospective was staged at the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in 1996.


Dates: 26/03 - 05/04

Total Duration: 48h

Saturdays, 08:00am - 12:00pm


Boxers (1965) 

© the artist's estate. Photo credit: The Williamson Art Gallery