My father, Colin Painter, who has died aged 82, was an artist and art educator who dedicated his career to encouraging participation in the visual arts, and to bridging the gap between the fine art establishment and the general public. A brilliant communicator and hands-on organiser, Colin created many imaginative shows exploring the public’s relationship with art images. These were exhibited at venues including the National Gallery, Tate and the V&A.
Most notable among them was At Home with Constable’s Cornfield in 1996 at the National Gallery, which placed Constable’s original painting alongside a variety of reproductions brought from the homes of members of the public, together with discourse on the individual’s connection with their object and the image itself. In At Home With Art (1999), in association with the Arts Council, the Tate and Sainsbury’s, Colin commissioned nine contemporary sculptors (Anthony Gormley, Tony Cragg, Alison Wilding and others) to create an original work which could be mass-produced and offered for sale in DIY outlets - this was intended to explore whether it was cost and availability that discouraged people from placing contemporary art in their homes.
These exhibitions and others came out of research Colin conducted in the 1970s for his PhD The Uses of Art (which was published in 1986). He studied the images hanging in 59 diverse households in and around Newcastle upon Tyne, their owner’s thoughts about each work, and whether or not they considered it to be “art”. It was a fascinating study, and of the many findings, two stood out. First, reproductions of paintings by Constable appeared in homes across all the social groups, adorning a variety of household objects from plates to clocks; secondly, images by contemporary artists appeared exclusively in the homes of those professionally connected with the art world.
Colin was born and brought up in Edmonton, London, the son of Ernest Painter, a policeman, and his wife, Nellie (nee Shepard). After leaving Latymer grammar school and graduating in fine art at St Albans, Colin took teaching posts while continuing his painting.
In 1960 he married Anne Hotson, who collaborated with him on all his projects. Five years later he became course leader of a new creative arts degree at Northern Counties College (later Newcastle Polytechnic) in Newcastle. Alongside this he launched and edited a quarterly contemporary art journal, Aspects, whose contributors were mostly artists rather than critics, giving practitioners a forum for serious debate about their work. It ran for 10 years (1977-87), with contributors including Gilbert and George, Peter Fuller and Peter Blake.
He left Newcastle in 1984 to take up the post of principal of Bath Academy as it moved into Bath College of Higher Education and in 1988 was appointed principal of Wimbledon School of Art in south-west London.
After retirement in 1997, he and Anne moved to the village of Salvagnac in the Tarn valley in France. He devised several solo shows in association with regional councils, and sponsored an annual residency for recent graduates from Wimbledon School of Art. In 2008 the Musée Ingres in Montauban held a major retrospective of Colin’s work. Colin and Anne moved back to London in 2017.
An opening bat for Berkshire Gents, lifelong Spurs fan and centre-forward for CP’s All-Stars, the football team he founded in Newcastle, Colin also loved music and was always ready to perform his grandfather Fred Holt’s composition Chick Chick Chick Chick Chicken.
He is survived by Anne, their children, Andy, Joe, Emme and me, and four grandchildren, Sophie, Lily, Phoebe and Kevin.