Michael Ayrton was born in London and he worked as a painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, broadcaster and author. After his schooling ended in 1935, Ayrton studied painting informally until 1939 in Vienna and Paris, alongside attending Heatherly’s Art School and various other art schools in London. After the outbreak of war, he had his first exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery. This was followed by, amongst others, exhibitions at Wakefield City Art Gallery, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada. His most important exhibition however was Word and Image, a show comparing his own work with that of Wyndham Lewis, which was held at the National Book Club in London in 1971. Six years later, a posthumous retrospective exhibition took place in 1977 at the City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Throughout his lifetime, Ayrton also worked as a stage and costume designer, and wrote novels, short stories, poetry and art criticism. He travelled widely, living in France and spending lengthy periods in Italy and Greece, Greek mythology being an important influence in much of his work. Examples of his work are held in several important collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate and National Portrait Galleries, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Fry Art Gallery in Essex.