"I liked Tony immediately because he’s smart and cultured, but he speaks his mind in a very direct way, and that’s unusual for the English," the artist Joe Goode has said of his friend of over 50 years.
Donaldson’s art is indeed smart - it questions ceaselessly and scrupulously subverts clichés. It is cultured, in the breadth of its reference, and it is erotic to the nth degree of refinement, which is indeed most un-English. Pre-1960 there wasn’t much English art that dwelt on female sensuality. Donaldson (b. 1939 London, England) was in the vanguard of that change and as the ultimate authority Marco Livingstone has written, far from objectifying women in a male-dominated society his female images, early and late, while ‘sexually alluring’ also ‘exude a certain innocence’. Other subjects – racing cars, planes, searchlight beams - are no less sensually described.
From the Slade years where Donaldson won the top degree meant he had a further year of paid study. The end of British national service coincided, as Donaldson says, in London and beyond with an ‘amazing explosion which transformed cinema, writing, poetry and art in the years he was at art school’.
In 1964 Donaldson was chosen for the landmark New Generation exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery which included Allen Jones and David Hockney. Donaldson was also the first Pop Artist to have sold work to the Tate. In later years Donaldson took up sculpture in a variety of media, including carving in marble. His most famous piece is the giant Buddha-like head of Alfred Hitchcock, Master of Suspense in the courtyard of the Gainsborough Film Studios.
Antony Donaldson lives and works in France