William (Bill) Mills 1923-1997

Bill Mills was a big man. He gave the impression of strength and power, despite the arthritis in his hands, and he was a formidable artist. He lived life to the full and left behind, at his death in 1997, a great body of vigorous work.

When Teresa Newman reviewed one of the four Mills one-man shows at Alpha House Gallery in the 1990s, she described him as a colourist ‘whose landscapes share something of Bomberg’s passionate vision’. He was indeed a colourist, a muscular painter unafraid to use startling colour combinations but with a sensitivity and skill which evoked a spirit of place.

In his early post-war career, influenced by de Kooning and Rothko, his work was abstract and minimal. When in the early 1980s he gave up teaching and turned to landscape, his art began to expand and blossom. He used line and colour to create mass – tangible on a two dimensional canvas. The first source of inspiration was Spain, later the Pyrenees and then Provence. Finally it was the Welsh Marches and Radnorshire where he made his home, with a host of canvases and drawing of waterfalls, trees and hillsides.

Nothing in his art was weak or mean. Every piece of work I have ever seen by Bill Mills, from the largest towering canvas to the simplest Hiltonesque linear cartoon, has a strength and spirit, showing a love of life inspirational to colleagues and pupils. He should take his place amongst the best expressive British painters of the 20th Century such as Matthew Smith, Frank Auerbach, Ivon Hitchens, Patrick Heron and Roger Hilton.

by Tony Birks 2000 for the Commemorative Exhibition at Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, Wales



Leeds City Art Gallery
Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery
Radnorshire Museum
Tower Hamlets
Newcastle Art for Offices
Anthony Shaw Collection
Tim Sayer
John Paré
Austin-Desmond Fine Art
Presteigne Assembly Rooms
Kinnersley Castle

William Mills

William Mills in his Studio @ Berry St. | London 1981

OBITUARY by Tony Birks – The Guardian Feb 13th 1997