John Emanuel received no formal art training – after leaving school, he served an apprenticeship in painting and decorating.
His introduction to art, in particular painting, was gained through a series of illustrated talks given by a lecturer from the Extra Mural Department of Manchester University. In 1964 his interest in art deepened and he moved to Cornwall. He initially made a living signwriting to support his family while he developed his drawing and painting with the help of artist friends such as John Wells, Denis Mitchell and Alexander Mackenzie. It was ten years before he had his first exhibition. Since the early 1980s John has lived in St Ives, working from one of the famous Porthmeor Studios overlooking Porthmeor Beach which had previously been used by the sculptor John Milne.
His natural creativity, inspired by a love of his subject – the figure and the figure embraced by the landscape, has developed into a consistent style. Well known for his studies of the female nude, John’s paintings in oil and mixed media often places the female form within a landscape that is simplified but recognisable; whether it is west Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly or Cumbria. This subject combines John’s love of drawing the nude, and his equally intimate association with the ancient landscape of west Cornwall. It is this interaction between the classical and sometimes sensual nude with its rugged environment that characterises his work.
His drawings exhibit a clear, classical form and a simplicity of line which strengthens the relationship between the contours of the figure and the contours of the land. Colour is usually restricted and stronger areas of a single colour is applied in specific bands or elements of the image. This process enhances the dramatic and sculptural effect of the painting. The notion of forms sleeping beneath the earth are a recurring theme.
John works in a variety of media: charcoal, gouache, oils and, more recently mixed media and lino-types, a method he learned from John Wells. His preferred medium is oil paint using hand and mould made papers laid down on archive quality board, although more recently some of the characteristic heavy and often textural impasto of oil has given way to subtle glazes of oil colour. This is partly through the effect of the artist using canvas in place of board or paper mounted on board, his more usual support.
Over the course of his long and successful career John has had his work shown in many solo and mixed exhibitions throughout the country, in London and in Europe. He now exhibits his work regularly at the Penwith Gallery, St Ives, St Ives Printmakers Gallery, and Belgrave Gallery, St Ives, and also at the Stour Gallery, Shipston on Stour. His work is widely collected and he has been featured in many books, articles and other publications.