John Virtue was born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1947. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1965-69). Returning to Lancashire in the early 1970s, he had a brief teaching post in Liverpool, then worked as a postman while painting and drawing the landscape when possible. He took the decision to paint full-time in 1985. In 1988 he moved south to Devon for 15 years, and was appointed Associated Artist at the National Gallery 2003-05.
Virtue’s earlier Lancashire paintings contain colour, unlike the black and white work he has produced ever since – which is characterised by the complete exclusion of colour, deemed to be ‘an unnecessary distraction’. He has expressed his admiration for 17th century Dutch landscape paintings and also those of Turner, in their condensed expression of land and sky, which he tried to match with his monochrome palette.
Virtue is a very successful British artist with works in public and private collections all over the world.