Humphrey Ocean, born in Sussex in 1951, went to art schools in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and Canterbury. From 1971 to 1973 he was bass player with Kilburn and the Highroads and in 2004 was elected a Royal Academician. In 1984 he painted a portrait of Philip Larkin for the NPG. In 1988 he went to Northern Brazil with the anthropologist Stephen Nugent. Their book 'Big Mouth: The Amazon Speaks' was published by Fourth Estate. In 2014 he made a new portrait of Randy Lerner for the NPG. Exhibitions include Double-Portrait, Tate Liverpool 1992, urbasuburba, The Whitworth Art Gallery 1997, The Painter's Eye, National Portrait Gallery 1999, how's my driving, Dulwich Picture Gallery 2003, Perfectly Ordinary, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury Christ Church University 2009, Here and There, Jesus College, Cambridge 2011, A handbook of modern life, National Portrait Gallery 2013, I've No Idea Either, Sims Reed Gallery, London 2018. Projects include Life Class with Artangel, Art Everywhere with the Art Fund, advising on Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner and designing a road sign for the 50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign at the Design Museum. In 2015 he was made an Honorary Doctor by the University of Kent. In 2016 he wrote and presented The Essay for BBC Radio 3 about Impington College, the only Gropius building in Britain. At Christine König Galerie, Vienna he exhibited in books + papers 2015, Wahren Flusse und Meere Tinte 2017. Since 2012 Humphrey Ocean has been Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, a position once held by J.M.W. Turner. His work is in the British Council Collection, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Imperial War Museum, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Maritime Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2018 he talked with artist Mark Alexander in Only Artists on BBC Radio 4, featured in Drawing Together at The Courtauld Gallery, From Life at Royal Academy of Arts and he hung Gallery 4 for the 250th Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In 2019 he has a solo exhibition Birds, Cars and Chairs at the Keeper's House, Royal Academy of Arts and he will be showing in books + papers II at Christine König Galerie, Vienna. At the end of 2019 two books were published by the Royal Academy of Arts: Humphrey Ocean A Book of Birds; and Humphrey Ocean, a major new 320 page fully illustrated monograph with a text by Ben Thomas. He was a guest on BBC Radio 4 Start the Week: Hogarth, Freud and Ocean.

He lives and works in London.


  • November 2019, two RA publications

    Humphrey Ocean a 320pp fully illustrated monograph with an essay by Ben Thomas

    Humphrey Ocean A Book of Birds

  • Start the Week BBC Radio 4

    28 October 2019 Hogarth Freud Ocean