Who was Patrick Burke? A look at the artist behind our new exhibition in Hove Museum

Our new exhibition in Hove Museum is a retrospective of a local artist, Patrick Burke.

Thanks to Latest TV you can watch Andrew Polmear, a collector and friend of Burke, discussing the artist and the exhibition. Below, you can also find a short biography of the artist.


Black & white head shot of Patrick BurkePatrick Burke (1932-2010) was a Shoreham-born painter and writer who gained success in London, Rome and New York. The works from the height of his career are alive with colour, inspired by the time he spent in Italy.

Burke lived for the latter part of his life in Brunswick Square, Hove where he continued to paint images of Hove seafront and buildings. This display shows the range of his work including early etchings and sketches of Brighton life, paintings, sketchbooks, notebooks and diaries.

Burke started drawing as a child and continued all his life. He went to Varndean Grammar School for boys, now Varndean College.  After a move to Rome in 1957 he moved into pure abstraction and gained recognition in both Rome and New York.

By the sixties, he had moved to a figurative style influenced by Magritte and Mondrian which he later rejected saying: “I copied the style but didn’t understand the first thing about the purpose.”

He found his own style in the 1970’s combining both the abstract and figurative elements and continued working in this style for the next 25 years. The work was colourful and full of playful images as well as references to other artists’ work. He also taught for many years at the Brighton College of Art which became part of Brighton Polytechnic and later Brighton University.

In 1991 Burke planned to retire to Rome but after three weeks there realised he had made a mistake and moved back to Hove. He lived in a flat in Brunswick Square and regularly painted local scenes including a series of promenade paintings of people on Brighton seafront, packed with bizarre characters dancing on the prom with a ship on the sea in the distance.

In later years, Burke suffered back problems and so was not able to produce as prolifically as when he was young. His work became more muted but he continued to work until his death in 2010 in Brighton & Hove.

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4 Responses

  1. Mary Priefert

    Patrick was my tutor at Brighton from 1981-1984, he taught me so much and I often think of him. Very sad to learn that he died 9 years ago. We kept in touch until the early 90’s. He was kind and generous, intense and gentle. I feel very lucky to have bought one of his paintings in the late 1980’s.

  2. Valerie GILMAN

    I have strong memories of Patrick Burke having met him at college in the late 70s. I loved his work and have always remembered his portraits. I’m very sad not to have seen him again. I have such a kind reply sent when I wrote to him after my college days. I’m sorry I missed this exhibition.

  3. Charles Koning.

    Patrick taught me in 1970s . I can’t claim to have known him well , but remember a singular man who showed great respect for students. Was only talking recently about him with friends who shared an affection for his enigmatic persona. I’m sorry to have missed the recent shows ,but seeing work online helps me know him better.

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