1910 to 1983
Son of a damask weaver, Colin Middleton was born in Belfast. Trained at Belfast College of Art, under Newton Penprase. His fellow students there included William Scott, F E McWilliam and Romeo Toogood. He was heavily influenced by the work of Vincent van Gogh. He worked in the family business until the opportunity to teach art enabled him to devote more time to painting.
Middleton was probably the most eclectic Irish painter of the 20th century – moving with ease and conviction through Cubist, Surrealist and Expressionist styles. He regarded himself as the only Surrealist working in Ireland in the 1930s.
In 1941 Middleton showed for the first time at the Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin. His first solo exhibition was at the Grafton Gallery in 1944 after which he devoted himself to full-time painting. More exhibitions followed in Dublin, London and Boston. Several major exhibitions were held under the auspices of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
In 1953 Middleton moved to Bangor where he designed for the New Theatre, the Circle Theatre and the Lyric Theatre. In 1954 he started his career as an art teacher at the Belfast College of Art and at Coleraine Technical School, eventually becoming head of art at Friends’ School, Lisburn. The ‘Dublin Magazine’ at this time said of him: ‘Apart from the brilliance of his paint, he has one rare quality in his inexhaustible capacity for wonder’. A poet and musician, Middleton also produced murals, mosaics and posters. In 1969 he was awarded an MBE and appointed an associate at the Royal Hibernian Academy, with full membership in 1970. Queen’s University, Belfast conferred an honorary M.A. degree in 1972. A major retrospective was held in 1976 at the Ulster Museum and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. John Hewitt wrote about him, “I do not hesitate to describe him as the most various and imaginatively endowed of Irish Painters, past or present.”
He continued to exhibit at the RHA until the year of his death. He died on 13 December 1983.
Location of Plaque: 6 Victoria Road, Bangor
Date unveiled: 12 November 2005
Report of Plaque unveiling available HERE