Frank McKelvey RHA RUA (1895-1974)

Frank McKelvey 1The Irish landscape artist and portrait painter Frank McKelvey was born in Belfast in 1895. Initially a poster designer, he studied drawing and painting at the Belfast School of Art where he won the Charles Brett prize for figure drawing in 1912.

His drawings from the nude also received commendation, and in 1914 he won the Fitzpatrick prize for his figure sketches. In 1917 he won the bronze in Dublin’s Taylor art competition.

Frank McKelvey first attracted attention with his pictures of ‘old’ Belfast, and his landscape painting. In 1917, his artwork was accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) when he was only 23. For the next fifty-five years he showed every year at the RHA. In 1919, he showed five paintings at the Water Colour Society of Ireland exhibition. In 1921, McKelvey was elected a member of the Belfast Art Society. He was appointed an associate member ARHA of the RHA in 1923, and in 1930 he became a full member. In 1930, along with Hans Iten, Charles Lamb and others, he was elected one of the founding academicians of the Ulster Academy of Arts.

Frank McKelvey 2Frank McKelvey’s paintings were shown at various exhibitions during his lifetime, including: the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery; the exhibition of Irish art in Brussels (1930); the Hackett Galleries, New York; Ulster House, London; Contemporary Irish Art exhibition in Aberystwyth; Royal Ulster Academy; Royal Hibernian Academy; the Oireachtas; solo shows at Locksley Hall in Belfast, Victor Waddington Galleries in Dublin and Ulster House in London. During his career, McKelvey was thought of as being on the same artistic level as the landscape artists Paul Henry and James Humbert Craig. However, McKelvey was also a prolific and skilful portraitist, painting the portraits of a wide range of subjects including: thirteen US Presidents with roots in Ulster. He also executed a number of marine and naval paintings.

Frank McKelvey died on June 30, 1974. Five years later, an exhibition of his oils and watercolours was held at The Oriel Gallery, Dublin. Examples of his art can be found in numerous public and private collections, in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Most Expensive Work by Frank McKelvey

The auction record for a work by Frank McKelvey was set in 2005, when his painting, entitled The Good Companions, was sold at Whytes, Dublin, for €102,000.

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Peter Curling

Peter CurlingThe Irish equestrian artist and horse portrait painter Peter Curling was born in Waterford in 1955. His exceptional talent as a teenage artist led to his first exhibition in the racing centre of Lambourn at the age of 14, followed by sell-out shows in Dublin.

Not long after, Curling caught the attention of both Aylmer Tryon, art-dealer and founder of the Tryon Gallery, and the renowned horse portraitist Susan Crawford. Acting on their advice, Peter Curling went to Florence (like Niccolo D’Ardia Caracciola before him) where he spent two years studying drawing and fine art painting under the master artist Signorina Simi, a contemporary of Annigoni. He also learned the depiction of movement and speed from studying sculpture under John Skeaping.

Returning to the UK, Curling enjoyed several successful exhibitions in London and Ireland before deciding to relocate permanently to Ireland. In 1977, he moved to Tipperary, a famous horse-breeding and horse-training region and rapidly established himself as leading equine painter in the world of visual art in Ireland. For the next 15 years or so, Curling focused on almost exclusively on horse portraits, but such repetition understandably caused a degree of creative stagnation. His response was to widen both his subject matter and artistic locations. He spent more time on landscape painting and sought inspiration in Venice. In addition, he began producing cartoons and caricatures of individuals from the world of racing.

Peter Curling 2Peter Curling had his first London solo exhibition at the Tryon Gallery in 1978 and has shown there regularly ever since. His paintings of horses have also been exhibited in Lexington, Saratoga and New York. In 1992 he had a very successful exhibition in Dublin at Jorgensen Fine Art.

The auction record for a work by Peter Curling was set in 2006, when his horse-racing painting, entitled The Scarteen Point-to-Point, Kilfeacle, was sold at Christie’s, in London, for £66,000.

George Campbell RHA (1917-1979)

George Cambell 3One 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.

George Cambell 4Campbell’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.

Maurice MacGonigal PRHA (1900-79)

Maurice MacGonigal 1

The landscape and portrait artist Maurice MacGonigal was born in Dublin, becoming a design apprentice in his Uncle’s firm which designed and produced stained glass. MacGonigal’s cousin, the artist Harry Clarke (who married the painter Margaret Crilley) gave him much encouragement.

MacGonigal mixed politics with art studies, managing within a few years to be interned at Ballykinlar Camp, take drawing and figure drawing classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (now the National College of Art and Design) and win the Taylor Scholarship in painting. He also won the Tailteann silver medal for landscape.

After a visit to Holland in 1927, where he studied fine art painting at the Hague, he returned to Dublin where he taught in the Royal Hibernian Academy Art Schools and also at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art becoming a very influential teacher and eventually Professor of Painting.

Influenced in his art by Sean Keating, Maurice MacGonigal maintained a particularly fruitful association with the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), exhibiting each year from 1924 to 1978 a total of more than 200 paintings.

He was elected an academician of the RHA in 1933. In addition, he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), London and the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.

Maurice MacGonigal 2

He was elected a member of the board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland as well as the Keeper of the Academy from 1936-1939 and President from 1962-1977. For much of his artistic career, MacGonigal was an influential figure in the visual art scene of Ireland, representing the more academic and conservative trend or style of art, as opposed to the more avant-garde approach of Mary Swanzy, Nora McGuinness and Louis le Brocquy.

Maurice MacGonigal had solo exhibitions at both Victor Waddington Galleries, (1944) and Taylor Galleries (1978) in Dublin, while in 1991 the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery staged a retrospective of his works. He showed at numerous Oireachtas. MacGonigal’s work is now represented in all major collections of Irish art, including: Ulster Museum, Belfast; Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork; Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Limerick City Gallery of Art (includes National Collection of Contemporary Drawing); Waterford Municipal Art Gallery Collection.

Most Expensive Painting By Maurice MacGonigal

The auction record for a work by Maurice MacGonigal was set in 2006, when his landscape painting, entitled Harbour at Roundstone, Connemara, was sold at DeVeres, in Dublin, for €32,000.

John Luke RUA (1906-75)

John Luke 1The Irish landscape artist and figurative painter John Luke was born in Belfast and worked in a shipyard and Flax Mill before taking night classes at the Belfast School of Art. There, he won a scholarship and the following year a prize in a Royal Dublin Society competition which led him to travel to London to study fine art painting, drawing and sculpture at the Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks. The artists Tom Carr and F. E. McWilliam were his contemporaries at the time. After exhibiting at the Redfern Galleries in London, he completed a mural for a travel company, spending the proceeds on a trip to Paris. After this, he took evening classes in figure painting at the Westminster School of Art under Walter Bayes and showed at the Leger Gallery.

In 1931 he returned to Belfast. By now, landscape painting was his dominant interest. In 1933 he exhibited with the Northern Ireland Guild of Artists. More exhibitions followed, in Belfast and at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin. In 1938 he assisted in the painting of a frieze for the Ulster Pavilion in the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. The following year he represented Northern Ireland at the New York World Fair. During WWII Luke stopped painting for a spell and retired to a cottage in County Armagh, earning his living by teaching art at Manor House school.

(c) Neville McKee; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In 1946, Luke had a solo exhibition of his oil and tempera paintings at the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery: a total of 85 artworks including four sculptures. In 1947 John Luke’s work was included at an exhibition of noted Ulster artists in London. Then, in 1948, the Northern Ireland Council For Encouragement of Music and The Arts (CEMA), the forerunner of the arts council of Northern Ireland, held a retrospective for Luke in Belfast. In 1951, Luke painted a mural for the Festival of Britain in his characteristically, formalized style. There is another mural of his in the Masonic Hall, Rosemary Street, Belfast, and an oil The Old Callan Bridge in the County Museum, Armagh. From 1953 he lectured at Belfast College of Art.

John Luke spent his final years – after the death of his mother – in relative poverty in a flat in Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, and died in the Mater Hospital in 1975. The following year, the Arts Council of Ireland mounted an extensive exhibition of his work at the Ulster Museum and the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin. His artworks appear in several public and private collections, including: Ulster Museum, Belfast; County Museum, Armagh; Queen’s University Belfast; and many more.

The highest price paid at auction for a painting by John Luke was recorded in 1999, when his landscape, entitled The Bridge, was sold at Christie’s, in London, for £41,500.

Sean McSweeney

Sean McSweeney 2The Irish landscape artist Sean McSweeney, one of Ireland’s leading painters, was born in Dublin in 1935. Despite not attending art college or taking any classes in painting, he began exhibiting his pictures regularly in the 1960s, in the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and the Oireachtas. McSweeney has also had five one-man shows at the Dawson Gallery in Dublin (from 1965 until 1977), ten solo shows at the Taylor Galleries in Dublin, and numerous others at the Kenny Gallery in Galway, Vanguard Gallery in Cork and at the Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast.

McSweeney participated in many group exhibitions of Irish painting including: Celtic Triangle (1971); The Delighted Eye, Earlham Street Gallery, London (1980); 14th Cagnes-Sur-Mer Painting Festival (1985); Contemporary Artists from Ireland, Austin Desmond Fine Art Gallery, London (1990); Painting Landscape, Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast (2001).

In 1990, Sean McSweeney had a retrospective exhibition organized by the Galway Arts Festival which travelled to the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallagher Gallery, Dublin and other venues in Ireland. In 1996, McSweeney had a two-person exhibition with sculptor Conor Fallon in the RHA Gallagher Gallery and the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo.

Sean McSweeneySean McSweeney’s landscape painting focuses on the phenomenon of the bog pool – deep rectangular incisions in the surface of the bog that are caused by the practice of harvesting turf – and the rugged Sligo coastline. He lives and works in Ballyconnell, Sligo, from where most of his artistic inspiration derives.

During his career as a painter, Sean McSweeney has won numerous awards including: the Oireachtas Award (1968), the George Campbell Travelling Award (1980), the Carroll Award, IELA (1987), a Winner’s Medal for the Claremorris Open Exhibition (1987-8), and in 1989 he was awarded Bonn An Oireachtas.

He is a member of Aosdana and his work is represented in the collections of the Arts Council of Ireland; the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; the Ulster Museum, Belfast; Aer Lingus; Art Council of Northern Ireland; Dublin City University; Sligo Museum and Art Gallery; Trinity College Dublin.

The auction record for a work by Sean McSweeney was set in 2007, when his landscape painting, entitled Summer Fields, was sold at James Adams, in Dublin, for €18,000.

Brian Bourke

Brian Bourke 2Renowned for his landscapes and his draughtsmanship as well as his series of humorous self-portraits comparing himself to Don Quixote, Brian Bourke was born in Dublin in 1936.

He studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. In 1964, he held his first solo exhibition in Dublin.

In 1965, he was chosen to represent Ireland in both the Biennale de Paris and the Lugano Exhibition of Graphics.

In the same year he won the Arts Council prize for portraiture and then, in 1967, won first prize in the Irish Exhibition of Living Art competition.

A regular exhibitor at the Dawson and Taylor Galleries in Dublin, and at art galleries in Switzerland, England and America, his paintings were included in the Delighted Eye, the Hibernian landscape and the Cork Rosc exhibitions in 1980.

Brian BourkeIn 1985, the Sunday Independent newspaper named him Artist of the Year, and in 1993 he received the O’Malley Award from the Irish-American Cultural Institute.

In 1991, he was appointed artist-in-residence at the Beckett Festival in the Gate Theatre, Dublin, while his accompanying works appeared at the Douglas Hyde Gallery.

In 2001, a large exhibition of his portraits of women, centred around portraits of his son’s adopted daughter, appeared at the Dyehouse Gallery in Waterford. He lives in County Galway. Brian Bourke’s paintings appear in many important collections throughout Ireland and worldwide. He is an elected member of Aosdana.

The auction record for a work by Brian Bourke was set in 2004, when his oil painting entitled Those Girls, Those Girls, Those Lovely Seaside Girls(Dyptich) was sold at DeVeres, Dublin, for €26,000.