LONDON (AP) _ Painter Victor Pasmore, a leading figure in British abstract art since the late 1940s, has died at the age of 89, according to news reports today.

Pasmore died Friday, The Guardian said. The Times quoted his agent, Geoffrey Parton, as saying Pasmore died in his sleep at home in Malta. The cause of death was not given.

Pasmore had already acquired a considerable reputation as a figurative painter with a great technical accomplishment when, in mid-career, he turned to abstraction and amazed the British art world.

Art critic Herbert Read later called the switch in 1947 ``the most revolutionary event in post-war British art.''

In its obituary, The Daily Telegraph said Pasmore later wrote that he felt he had reached ``an abyss from which I either had to retreat or leap over and start on a new plane.''

His earliest abstract works were collages, but in the early 1950s he began working in relief paintings, then constructions, using plywood, plastic and other manmade materials, and murals.

Pasmore and fellow artists William Coldstream and Claude Rogers opened the Euston Road School in 1937, where they worked alongside their students on landscapes, townscapes and interiors that were in opposition to abstract and Surrealist work then current in Britain.

In 1938 Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery, bought one of Pasmore's works and then provided him with a basic income to enable him to concentrate on painting, The Guardian said in its obituary.

Pasmore became a teacher at Durham University in northern England from 1954 to 1962.

In 1966, he moved to Malta, where he continued painting.

Pasmore was honored in 1959 award with a CBE, as Companion in the Order of British Empire, and in 1981, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Companion of Honor, an exclusive order honoring ``conspicuous national service.''

He was married in 1940 to painter Wendy Blood, and they had a son and a daughter. There was no immediate announcement of surovors or funeral plans.