Gillian Ayres is one of Britain's most original painters. She is known for using bright, joyful colours and admits to not enjoying painting people.
As a child Ayres attended a progressive school and was unable to read until she was 11. She studied with the artists Terry Frost and Howard Hodgkin and became head of painting at Winchester School of Art. Ayres was elected to the Royal Academy in 1991 but resigned six years later. This was in protest at the controversial Sensation exhibition which included Myra, a portrait of Moors Murderer Myra Hindley by Marcus Harvey.
Ayres has focused her long career almost entirely on creating abstract paintings in a range of styles. These include Anthony And Cleopatra which is covered in bright, scribbled marks on a yellow background. It contrasts with the darker tones of Distillation which Ayres created with the canvas lying on the floor, inspired by Jackson Pollock.