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.

Projects include Life Class with Artangel, Art Everywhere with the Art Fund, advising on Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner. At Christine König Galerie, Vienna he exhibited in books + papers 2015, Wahren Flusse und Meere Tinte 2017, books + papers II 2019, Me, Myself and I, 2020. In 2018 he exhibited 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 2016 he wrote and presented The Essay for BBC Radio 3 about Impington College, the only Gropius building in Britain. In 2018 he talked with artist Mark Alexander in Only Artists on BBC Radio 4. In 2019 he was a guest on BBC Radio 4 Start the Week: Hogarth, Freud and Ocean. In 2012 he was made Honorary Doctor by Canterbury Christ Church University and in 2015, Honorary Doctor by University of Kent. Humphrey Ocean was Royal Academy Professor of Perspective 2012-2020.

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; Fresh as Paint, Eton College 2022.

In 2019 a major new monograph, Humphrey Ocean by Ben Thomas and A Book of Birds by Humphrey Ocean were both published by RA Publications.

His work is in the collections of British Museum, British Council, The Whitworth: University of Manchester, Imperial War Museum, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Maritime Museum, National Galleries Scotland: Portrait, Victoria and Albert Museum, Government Art Collection.

In 2024, his exhibition That was close at DKUK, Peckham, London runs from 14 January till 11 May. In it he is showing new paintings and four of the drawings he made in 1988 in Brazil.

He lives and works in London.


  • Humphrey Ocean DKUK Peckham 'That was close' 14 January - 11 May 2024