Ingham (1936–1997) was a British artist born in Yorkshire who specialised in painting, etching and sculpture.
Bryan Ingham was born and raised in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley, in one of its many terraced houses, and the surrounding moorlands, a landscape that marked his later artistic language deeply. His father George was a sales rep for mens clothing, and his mother Alice took in sewing from time to time when the family finances required. He was unsuccessful academically at school, but had a warm family life, and his uncle, Leslie Ingham, who lived for much of the time in the household gave him an early exposure to and love of literature and music and as a result Ingham became as an adult very well read, with a particular zest for and knowledge of poetry.
On leaving school he worked for a time in a department store and acquired an affection for the business’s traditional standards and his fellow workers. He was an enthusiastic cricketer and had a trial for Yorkshire; it was one of his regrets that having been born in a hospital two or three miles into Lancashire he was disqualified from playing for the county but as he was not selected this remained purely a sentiment.His affection for his Yorkshire roots never left him.
For his National Service he joined the RAF, and spent his time in Germany as an airman employed in a number of what he regarded as tedious tasks before ending up in charge of the stores at RAF Celle under a laissez-faire sergeant, where he became an enthusiastic operator of the ways and means act. On demob, his final report said “Ingham is an artistic sort of airman.” In his spare time he started painting in oils, and by the time he left the RAF he had completed a large number of paintings.
He went up to London’s St Martin’s School of Art, where he was fortunate to have the tuition of a fine post-war generation of teachers who helped him to hone his draughtsmanship and other skills, and he swiftly showed a capacity for painting that drew the attention of his tutors and peers. On graduating he was offered and accepted a post-graduate place at the Royal College of Art, where in his second year he was awarded a Royal Scholarship and was a contemporary of a number of now better-known names including David Hockney. He was establishing a reputation for bolshiness with his teachers, and in later years he admitted, a degree of arrogance. It did not stop his talent being appreciated by the staff including his director Carel Weight.
It was at the RSA that he made his first acquaintance with etching. Ingham was to become one of the most notable etchers of the second half of the 20th century, remarkable for the size and quality of his plates, which he often attacked in a style he called “quarrying.” He was by then established himself in a fine studio in Fournier St, off Brick Lane and teaching part of the time at Maidstone College of Art, enjoying among others the company of Quentin Crisp, who was a life model there at the time, particularly on the train journeys up and down, during which Crisp entertained outrageously.
During the late eighties he established a relationship with Francis Graham-Dixon, the art dealer, who at that time had a London gallery. The relationship meant that his paintings were professionally marketed for the first time, and prices for his work increased steadily in the last ten years of his life, and subsequently. He purchased a cottage in Helston for his parents, who lived there until their deaths. His friendship with Josephine Gooden resulted in his conversion of a barn adjoining her Lizard farmhouse and he lived there for some years in more comfort than in his cottage which he nonetheless always retained. He moved from there into a fine set of barn-type studios with a patch of garden, a former orchard, quietly situated off the High St in Helston, and it was here that he died, having stoicly endured cancer for nearly a year.
His paintings are in many public and private collections in the UK, Germany and elsewhere.
During his final six months he recorded a lengthy memoir and artistic testament in the course of a number of conversations. These include an remarkable disquisition on the craft of the etcher.
“There is the argument that by going down many false paths one has enriched one’s vocabulary, if only minimally, but positively enriched it. That is one reason why the best of my later etchings are strong. And inimitable, because nobody else has gone up and down those various pathways. Because most people have chosen to stick to just one pathway, not the pathways of construction, collage, oil painting, drawing, etching lithograph and of their various components. I’ve been up and down a hell of a lot of pathways. If one had another lifetime, another sixty years, to work, one would certainly do startling work. But its taken all of that time just to arrive at the beginning. I feel that about my etching. I feel that about my painting, and to a lesser extent about my sculpture. Well, that’s an apprenticeship, and a good apprenticeship. But should an apprenticeship last 45 years?”