Sheila Girling

Sheila Girling.
Sheila Girling. Courtesy Barford Sculptures Limited. Image not licensed for reuse.


Sheila Girling

Sheila Girling was a painter and collagist known for her large abstract paintings and her sensitive use of colour. While living in Vermont, United States, Girling discovered Liquitex acrylic paint, which became one of her favourite media. Listen to her speaking about visiting the studios of Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski and Helen Frankenthaler, and about learning new techniques from these artists, on Voices of art. Girling is also known for her collaborative work with her husband, the sculptor Anthony Caro. She chose the colours for many of Caro's famous sculptures. After living in Vermont while Caro taught at Bennington College, Girling and her family moved to North London where she established a studio in Camden with Caro.

Solo exhibitions by Sheila Girling include Watercolour Landscapes at Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta (1978); Acquavella Contemporary Art, New York (1980, 1982, 1985); Bilder und Aquarelle at Galerie Wentzel, Hamburg, Germany (1981); Francis Graham-Dixon Gallery, London (1989, 1991, 1993); Warwick Arts Trust, London (1986); Chesil Gallery, Dorset (1993); Way Through at Churchill College, Cambridge (1999); Collage Paintings 1989-1999 at Crossley Gallery, Halifax (1999); Energy of Colour at Pilgrim Gallery, London (2003); Insitut Valancia d’Art Modern, Valencia (2006); Art First, London (2007); Maddox Arts, London (2012); L’Artishe Gallery, Swanage (2012) and a retrospective at Annely Juda Fine Art, London (2015). Girling also exhibited widely in group exhibitions, and frequently contributed works to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

In 2009 Sheila Girling was interviewed by Hester Westley for Artists’ Lives. Her life story interview can be listened to on the British Library Sounds website. A written summary is available on the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image Catalogue.

Biography and education

Sheila Girling was born in 1924 in Birmingham. Her grandfather was the painter John Rabone Harvey. Girling attended the Birmingham School of Art and Royal Academy Schools, where she was awarded the silver medal for portraiture and Proxime Accessit in the gold medal section. While at the Royal Academy in 1948 Girling met the sculptor Anthony Caro, and they married soon after. Girling described their marriage as a '64-year conversation about art'.

Sheila Girling died on 14 February 2015.

Related articles

Discovering the American painter Jules Olitski at the Kasmin Gallery in London

Article by:
Ian Dunlop
Art and money

Ian Dunlop looks back to writing his first column of art criticism for The Times, in 1964.

Eavesdropping on Artists' Lives: The life and career of Anthony Caro

Article by:
Richard Wentworth
Sculpture, Curating, The artist's studio

Artist Richard Wentworth muses on his experience of making his life story recording for Artists’ Lives, and responds to extracts from the recordings made by sculptor Anthony Caro and gallerist, John Kasmin.

Coaching from the side lines: Sheila Girling and Anthony Caro

Article by:
Hester Westley
Sculpture, The artist's studio

Hester Westley interrogates the choices painter Sheila Girling made in relation to her career when her sons were young, and suggests her crucial role in the work of her husband, the sculptor Anthony Caro.