Orange accent II

Born Melbourne, Australia 1932, lived London 1962–71, died Sydney 1983


While at school, Peter Upward was taught by Danila Vassilieff, and later studied at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, (1948–49). He moved to Sydney where he studied at the Julian Ashton School (1951–53) under John Passmore who encouraged his early interest in abstraction.

Influenced by developments in abstract expressionism in America, Upward developed a style of gestural abstraction uncommon in Australia at that time. His paintings also reflected his interest in Eastern calligraphy, Zen Buddhism and jazz improvisation.

Despairing of Melbourne’s conservatism and drawn by Sydney’s bohemian lifestyle and stronger support for abstraction, Upward returned there to live in 1960. During this productive period he worked and exhibited alongside other abstract painters, such as John Olsen, John Passmore and Leonard Hessing, who formed the Sydney 9 group.

Upward moved to London in 1962 but was unable to achieve the success that he had enjoyed in Sydney. Suffering poor health and in financial difficulty, he returned to Sydney in 1971 where his career reignited.

A survey of his work was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1984 and a major retrospective, Frozen Gestures: The art of Peter Upward, was presented by Penrith Regional Gallery (2007). Upward’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Galleries of New South Wales and South Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery, and in Australian and international private and corporate collections.