MAURICE COCKRILL (1936 - 2013)

To The City - Nocturne (1980)

© the artist's estate. Photo credit: The Victoria Gallery & Museum

Maurice Cockrill was born in Hartlepool, County Durham, and spent his early years in Aberdare, South Wales before moving north near to Wrexham.


He attended Wrexham Art School in 1960 and studied Fine Art at the University of Reading from 1961-4. He moved to Liverpool where he worked at St Helens School of Art, before becoming a lecturer on the Art and Design Foundation Course at Liverpool College of Art in 1967.

A published poet, Cockrill made a bonfire of his existing works in 1968, and subsequently experimented until settling on a Photorealist style in the early 1970s he dubbed “synthetic realism”.

These works involved painstaking attention to detail and resulted in a number of large canvases, one of which, Scillonian Pumps, was a prize-winner in the 1974 John Moores 9. This aspect of Cockrill’s career, which resulted in a number of institutional commissions, ended with 1975’s Entrance, which featured his partner, artist Helen Moslin.

Cockrill’s restless experimentation continued, and his painting style began to loosen, as evident in the 1979 public art installation Seven in Two at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, while the 1980 cityscape Nocturne to the City appears to reference both Whistler and Hopper.

Prior to ending his 18-year tenure in Liverpool and moving to London in late 1982, Cockrill surprised his audience by adopting a more visceral, expressionistic figurative style. Thereafter, his painting, which had frequently involved landscape, became increasingly abstract until, in the late 1990s, it became completely abstract.

Retrospectives of his work were held at the Walker Art Gallery in 1995 and in Durham in 2014, only a month after his passing. Cockrill had been elected to the Royal Academy in 1999 where between 2005 and 2011 he was Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools.