Humphrey Ocean was born in Sussex in 1951 and went to art schools in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and Canterbury. From 1971 to 1973 he was bass player with Kilburn and the Highroads and was elected a Royal Academician in 2004. In 1984 he painted a portrait of Philip Larkin for the NPG, described by Nick Hornby as 'unanswerable'. Four years later he went to Northern Brazil with the American anthropologist Stephen Nugent and their book 'Big Mouth: The Amazon Speaks' was published by Fourth Estate in 1990. 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 2009 he appeared in Life Class: Today's Nude on Channel 4 television, a project with Artangel directed by Alan Kane. 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, Humphrey Ocean Perfectly Ordinary, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury Christ Church University 2009 and Here and There, Jesus College, Cambridge, 2011. Now and Then accompanied being made an Honorary Doctor by Canterbury Christ Church University. A series of new portraits A handbook of modern life was shown at the National Portrait Gallery for nine months 2012-2013. In 2013 Lord Volvo and his Estate, 1982, was voted one of 57 of the nation's favourite paintings and appeared on billboards around Britain in Art Everywhere organised by the Art Fund. In 2014 he completed a new portrait of Randy Lerner for the National Portrait Gallery and advised on Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner. In 2015 he was made an Honorary Doctor by the University of Kent. He also featured in ‘Will Gompertz Gets Creative’ on 11 July on BBC Radio 4, designed a road sign for the 50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign at the Design Museum and showed in books + papers at Christine König Galerie, Vienna. Since 2012 Humphrey Ocean has been Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, a position once held by J. M. W. Turner.
He lives and works in London.