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, Humphrey Ocean Perfectly Ordinary, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury Christ Church University 2009 and Here and There, Jesus College, Cambridge, 2011. A series of new portraits, A handbook of modern life, was shown at the National Portrait Gallery 2012-2013. 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 has exhibited in books + papers, and most recently Wahren Flusse und Meere Tinte. 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 has 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 March he talked with artist Mark Alexander in Only Artists on BBC Radio 4. The year started with I've No Idea Either at Sims Reed Gallery, London and his latest exhibition Birds, Cars and Chairs will be at The Keeper's House, Royal Academy of Arts from 7 December 2018 till 7 April 2019. 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.


  • Birds, Cars and Chairs

    Keeper's House, Royal Academy of Arts

    7 December 2018 - 18 August 2019

  • Only Artists, 2018

    BBC Radio 4 iPlayer