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. Exhibitions include Double-Portrait, Tate Liverpool 1992, urbasuburba, The Whitworth, University of Manchester 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, Birds, Cars and Chairs, Royal Academy of Arts 2019. Projects include Life Class with Artangel, Art Everywhere with the Art Fund, advising on Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner. 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, books + papers II 2019. Humphrey Ocean was Royal Academy Professor of Perspective 2012-2020. His work is in the British Council Collection, The Whitworth, University of Manchester, 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 hung Gallery 4 for the 250th Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In 2019 he was a guest on BBC Radio 4 Start the Week: Hogarth, Freud and Ocean; two new books were published: A Book of Birds by Humphrey Ocean and a major new monograph, Humphrey Ocean by Ben Thomas (both RA Publications). In 2020 he showed three new self portraits in Me, Myself and I, Christine König Galerie, Vienna. Seven works acquired in 2022 by the British Museum: four drawings, an aquatint, a Kenya Travel Book from 2011 and Dot Book 1. In 2023 his painting Winnie was acquired by the Government Art Collection.

He lives and works in London.


  • British Museum Prints and Drawings Gallery 'New Acquisitions' four works by Humphrey Ocean 30 March - 10 September 2023

  • Portrait of Philip Larkin 1984 by Humphrey Ocean on show in re-opened National Portrait Gallery, London from 22 June 2023

  • Fly the Flag by Hardwicke Circus, record cover by Humphrey Ocean, release 9 June 2023