One of Ireland’s foremost landscape artists and still-life painters, George Campbell was born in County Wicklow and received his schooling in Dublin. His mother was the noted artist Gretta Bowen. George Campbell started painting in Belfast in 1941, partly as a reaction to the wartime bombing of the city. He first exhibited in 1944, alongside his friend Gerard Dillon, with whom he shared painting trips to Connemara. He first showed at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1948, in company with Dillon and Daniel O’Neill, and continued to show at the RHA over the next 30 years.
Campbell’s artistic range included landscapes, still-lifes, figure painting and historical works. He won the Douglas Hyde Gold Medal for both the best history painting at the Oireachtas and for the best landscape. He painted in watercolours, oils, and mixed media, and produced a number of etchings and crayon drawings. He also undertook several commissions in stained glass. In 1951, George Campbell made his first visit to Spain, a country which so captivated him that he returned there to paint nearly every successive year. This Spanish influence appears in his work in the form of bullfighters, gypsies, street scenes and musicians. He exhibited several times in Madrid, even learned to play the guitar, and was honoured as a Knight Commander of Spain in 1977.
Campbell’s paintings appeared in many exhibitions during his lifetime. He had his first showing at Belfast’s Mol Gallery in 1944, then in 1946 he exhibited at Waddington Galleries in Dublin – the first event in a long association with the art dealer Victor Waddington. His artworks also showed at the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery, Dublin, the Tom Caldwell Gallery, and at the IELA, the Oireachtas, and the water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI). The Northern Irish Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) sponsored a number of solo exhibitions for Campbell in 1949, 1952 and 1960, being then replaced by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for one-man shows in 1966 and 1972. George Campbell’s pictures are represented in most major public and private Irish collections of art.
Campbell was appointed an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1954 and a full member in 1964. The Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI) elected him a member in 1954. Both the BBC and RTE screened profiles of Campbell in the 1970s. He died in Dublin in 1979.
Most Expensive Work by George Campbell
The auction record for a work by George Campbell was set in 2007, when his landscape painting, entitled Evening In Connemara, was sold at Sotheby’s, London, for £50,400.