Michael divided his activities between performance work and small, quiet, beautiful gouaches in a time when everyone else seemed to be doing big messy paintings. Many of these paintings were exhibited after his death at The Henry Peacock Gallery.
Obituary from The Independent dated 15 October 2002:
Michael Upton, painter: born Birmingham 5 February 1938; married 1964 Anne McKechnie (one son deceased; marriage dissolved), 1974 Susy Young (died 1990; one son, one daughter); died Truro, Cornwall 20 September 2002.
The painter Michael Upton epitomised, for many of his contemporaries, the essence of Sixties cool. Good-looking, enigmatic, gregarious, he cut a louche, dashing figure in a monochromatic London throwing off the shackles of Fifties restraint. He and his friends and acquaintances – who included poets and writers as well as artists such as Patrick Procktor and David Hockney – hung out in the then urban wastelands of Notting Hill. He once said that he was only a painter because he couldn't do anything else; that what he had really wanted to be was a rock star.
Such apparent bravura belied the enduring commitment to his art that he maintained to the end of his life.
Upton was born in 1938 into a working-class family in Birmingham. He attended Birmingham College of Art from 1954 to 1958 and then the Royal Academy Schools in London until 1962 – where he was awarded a Leverhulme Scholarship in 1960 – and then went to Rome on an Abbey Scholarship. In 1971 he was awarded the Cassandra Foundation Award, and the same year became a tutor at the Royal Academy Schools and external assessor in painting at various art colleges.