Michael Ayrton was born in London on 20 February 1921, son of the poet and critic Gerald Gould and the Labour politician Barbara Ayrton. After his father’s death he adopted his mother’s name.
Although his formal education was interrupted by long periods of illness, he travelled extensively in Europe and spent much time in private study. He attended Heatherley’s and St John’s Wood Schools of Art, but he also spent time in Paris where he shared a studio with John Minton in 1939. Later in life, under Henry Moore’s advice, he became a proficient sculptor.
Ayrton was first associated with the English Neo-Romantic movement as he was influenced by the style of Pavel Tchelitchew, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland.
At the age of 18 he was commissioned to design the sets and costumes for Gielgud’s Macbeth and later on he started teaching drawing and stage design at the Camberwell School of Art (1942-44).
During his life he worked as an artist, teacher, writer, art critic, stage designer and illustrator, and in 1940s and 50s he visited Italy and Greece several times where he was influenced by the Italian Quattrocento but also by the myths of Icarus, Daedalus and the Minotaur which became central themes in his work.
He lived most of his life in Toppesfield, Essex, and died in November 1975.
Buckman D., (2006), Artists in Britain since 1945, Vol 2, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol