A World of Private Mystery: John Craxton RA (1922-2009)

Exploring the full breadth of Craxton's career, from his early years as a promising young post-war British artist, to the time he spent living in Crete during his later life.

This is the first exhibition to explore Craxton's whole life, the 60 works it features revealing of an eclectic artist who 'refused to be pigeon-holed'.

Born into a Bohemian, musical family in London, he did not have much formal education, instead he learnt by drawing, reading and listening to adult conversation.

At 19 he met Lucian Freud and the pair became inseparable, working and travelling together during the Second World War.

Craxton's early work, which included desolate images of metamorphic trees and estuaries, meant he was linked – against his will – to the Neo-Romantic movement and despite his success, he began to dream of starting a new life in Greece. 

While attending an exhibition in Zurich in 1946, Craxton was provided with the opportunity he needed thanks to the wife of the British Ambassador to Athens. Agreeing to take him there in a borrowed bomber, she also helped to arrange an exhibition of his work in the city through the British Council.

When the Colonels came to power, Craxton found himself exiled from Greece and travelled to Kenya , Tunisia, Morocco and Lanzarote, until he was able to return for a part of each year from 1977.

The works he produced during these years reflected the light and colour of the Mediterranean and visible influences from ancient Greek history and mythology and Byzantine mosaics can also be seen in his painting.

Don't miss

Craxton's paintings are accompanied by a short film made for BBC 2's The Culture Show which sees Sir David Attenborough trace his friendship with the artist. The exhibition also features a series of personal photos reflecting Craxton's many travels and friendships.


Venue details

Fitzwilliam Museum Trumpington Street, Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB2 1RB 01223 332900 www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk

Entry details

Free entry to all
Free exhibitions to all

Tue – Sat, 10am – 5pm
Sun & Bank Holidays 12noon – 5pm

Closed Mon, 24 – 26, 31 Dec and 1 Jan