John Hoyland emerged as one of Britain's leading abstract painters in the 1960's. He has exhibited in London, New York, Munich, Milan and Montreal. During the 1970's Hoyland worked in New York alongside abstract artists including Noland, Poons and Olitski.
Hoyland made the transition to abstract painting in his final years as a student at the Royal Academy. His Diploma presentation in 1960 consisted entirely of abstract paintings. The then President of the Royal Academy was shocked and ordered the paintings to be removed from the gallery walls. Fortunately, the Acting Keeper of the Schools defended Hoyland and ensured that he was awarded his Diploma. In 1960 and 1961 Hoyland was one of the youngest artists to exhibit in the Situation exhibitions alongside Harold and Bernard Cohen, William Turnbull, Gillian Ayres, Henry Mundy and Robyn Denny. His works of this period were concerned with geometric forms.
Hoyland won the support of the curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, Bryan Robertson, who included Hoyland's paintings in the successful exhibition The New Generation in 1964. He also helped Hoyland win a travel bursary to New York where Hoyland met and visited the studios of Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and Rothko. He also met the critic Clement Greenberg and the young painters Greenberg was championing at the time: Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski.
Returning to Britain, Hoyland continued to be supported by Robertson and took courage and inspiration from the work of Anthony Caro, who became a good friend. In 1967, he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery and two years later represented the United Kingdom, with Anthony Caro, at the 1969 Sao Paulo Beinnale.