Donald Young: Chronology


Born 18th April 1924 at Crofton Park, London S.E.4. His father was a Lighterman on the Thames. Neither parent had any interest in art and he was not encouraged as a child.


Won a scholarship to Wilson’s Grammar School, London, but his parents were unhappy fearing he would get ‘ideas above his station’. In 1940 he won a State scholarship for Art and attended the Central School for art.


Served in the Royal Navy where he was discovered to have a flair for mathematics. He was sent to Guildford College to undertake a crash course in Physics and Mathematics in preparation for his training as a Radr mechanic. After qualifying he was sent to various secret Naval stations where, naturally, he was unable to continue painting. As a result he suffered a breakdown and was invalided out of the Navy


He continued his studies at Chelsea School of Art where he gained his National Diploma in Art and Design. His future wife Joyce Parris also attended Chelsea at this time, but they only met properly at the end of term picnic in July 1946.


They Married on 29th March 1947. He painted many small works at this time, maily still-lifes, portraits and domestic scenes, but most were later destroyed.


They moved to Leicester where Young attended Leicester College and began the one year Pedagogy Course needed for the Art Teacher’s Diploma. Being dissatisfied with the ‘narrowness’ of the course he left to take a part-time post teaching life-drawing at. Loughborough College of Art


They decided to return to London so that Young could paint full-time and they rented a studio in Hampstead. His wife accepted an appointment teaching Art at Hackney Secondary School, for she had by now agreed to become the breadwinner, a role she carried through for the next 40 years. Most of his paintings executed at this time were later burnt - ‘they were not what I was really after’.


They moved to East Dulwich, London where his wife transfered to Albany Road Secondary School as Head of the Art Department. Young was now free to be more experimental and he began producing the figure paintings that were to obsess him for the rest of his life. Both Norman Reid and the art critic John Berger urged him to exhibit his work;


They moved to Beckenham, Kent, and within months he had developed a completely new style, mixing figurative and abstract concepts. The first painting to emerge from this new direction was All-seeing Head (No. 5).


This was an immensely prolific artistic period for Young in which he began producing the vibrant series of Beach Scenes. He now felt he was ready to exhibit and a one-man show was organized at the Drian Gallery, London.


Inclusion in several local mixed exhibitions followed as well as showing with the Free Painters Society at the Mall Galleries, London. He was now caught up in an artistic fervour, painting practically non-stop. His Wife, who prepared all his boards, could not keep up with him, so rather than coating the surfaces twice with sealer then white undercoat, she used only sealer. As a result Young changed direction slightly and incorporated the brown surface colour into his paintings, which became as important as ‘the marks’ he placed on it.


His wife had undergone two major operations for cancer within 12 days at the end of 1967, following several previous operations for the disease since 1964. Although neither went to church the tremendous support given to them both by the local vicar during these periods of crisis, spurred Young into becoming confirmed. He also began working on a series of powerful paintings depicting the crucifixion and these made up the majority of the 70 paintings exhibited at Southwark Cathedral in 1971. That same year 60 paintings travelled to 3 cities in West Germany, being amongst the first works by a British artist to be exhibited for many ears. They were warmly received by critics and public alike.


He taught adults at the Beckenham Arts Centre where he was regarded as an inspirational teacher.


In 1985 Young was discovered to have cancer of the prostate. Several operations did not, however, slow him down and he painted with an ever increasing vigour and intensity of colour. His last painting (No. 33) was still on his easel when he died in Farnborough Hospital on 30th January 1990.