In his 80th year, the School of Art Gallery staged a touring exhibition of etchings, lithographs, drawings and watercolours representing five decades in the career of John Roberts. In early 2003, the School received a V&A/Re:source Purchase Grant to acquire 20 works from Roberts for its permanent collection-others have since been acquired by gifts from the artist and the Arts Council of Wales. The Collection demonstrates Roberts' versatility working in a range of media. It illustrates his enduring interest in the costume and ritual of circus life and also street life at home and abroad. His departure into abstraction during the 1960s, illustrated by the densely-etched Head series that incorporate a multiplicity of intaglio processes, began simply as a means to demonstrate to students that intaglio prints can be made from so much more than etched line. Much of his work is autobiographical, the Novia del Toro (Bride of the Bull) works of 1962 and Fond Farewell (1973) tell the story of unrequited love.
John Vivian Roberts, painter and printmaker, was born in Tredegar, Gwent and went to Cathays High School, Cardiff. He studied at Cardiff School of Art (1939-42), served with the South Wales Borderers and Indian Signal Corps (1942-47) and then attended the Royal College of Art (1947-51) where he studied printmaking, at first under Robert Austin (etching and engraving) and then Edwin la Dell (lithography). He returned to Wales where he taught at Cardiff School of Art (1951-60) and afterwards at Liverpool Polytechnic (now John Moores University) where he became Head of the Faculty of Art and Design. He has been an active exhibiting member of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Liverpool Academy of Arts (where for many years he was Treasurer) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
In addition to a series of solo exhibitions he also showed with the South Wales Group, Arts Council for Wales, Society for Education through Art, Royal National Eisteddfod and the Liverpool Academy of Arts. His work is in several public collections; his commissioned etched portraits of 1978 are represented in the National Museum of Wales, and the National Library of Wales holds a small number of his pastel portraits. On retirement from Liverpool he moved to St. David's, Pembrokeshire fifteen years ago.