John Walker was born in Birmingham, England, in 1939. He trained at Birmingham College of Art in 1956-60, in his final year winning the Arts Council Drawing Prize, the Abbey Travelling Scholarship and the National Young Artists Drawing Competition.
His appointments as artist-in-residence at Monash University in 1979 and at Prahran College of Advanced Education in 1980 and as Dean of Melbourne's Victoria College of the Arts in 1982 followed periods as Gregory Fellow in Painting at the University of Leeds, Harkness Fellow to the USA, Visiting Professor of Painting and Drawing at The Cooper Union in New York, Tutor at the Royal College of Art, Visiting Professor at Yale University and artist-in-residence at St Catherine's College, Oxford. Influences from a visit to North Queensland and contact with Aboriginal art during his time in Australia are to be seen in subsequent paintings and prints.
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Walker had numerous solo exhibitions in cities including London, Paris, New York, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. He was in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1972, and in1985 there was a retrospective of his paintings at the Hayward Gallery, London, and a retrospective of his prints at the Tate Gallery, London.
Most recently, he has been Professor of Painting at Boston University.
In 1985 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize (alongside Terry Atkinson, Tony Cragg, Ian Hamilton Finlay,Howard Hodgkin [W]). John Walker was shortlisted primarily for works he made in the early 1980s, when he explored ways to make images which were not representational but which somehow conveyed the drama of painting.
His work is in numerous public collections worldwide including The Tate, V&A Museum, MOMA (New York) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia).
The Headingley series of lithographs are in a group of five similar abstract shapes with changing elements and colors (edition of 75). They were published in 1969 shortly after "Lesson 1" 1968, a canvas now in the collection of the Tate.
John Walker said "The trapezoidal canvas shape was meant to imply extent and stretch and the shape had to have structure. The vertical horizontal lines are to compartmentalize the picture to add linear tension and scale."