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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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.

Sean Keating (1889-1977)

Sean Keating 2A noted portrait and figure painter, influenced by both Romanticism and Realism, Sean Keating was an Irish nationalist painter who executed several iconic images of the Irish Civil war era, and of the ensuing period of industrialization. One of the great exemplars of representational painting in Ireland, Keating was an intellectual artist in that he set out to depict the birth and development of the Republic of Ireland, and his pictures are deliberately idealized even heroic. However, he held very conservative views about art – verging on the academic style – and was a committed defender of traditional Irish painting, considering much modern art to be bogus.

Born in Limerick, Sean Keating studied drawing at the Limerick Technical School before winning a scholarship, arranged for him by William Orpen, to study fine art painting at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin. In 1914 he won the Taylor Scholarship and the following year exhibited three paintings at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Over the next period of years he spent time on the Aran Islands off County Galway, and then in London. He returned to Ireland in 1916 and painted the war of independence and the subsequent civil war. Works he completed at this time include the painting: Men of the South (1921) depicting a group of IRA men about to stage a military ambush, and An Allegory (c. 1922) which features a cluster of figures representing the fractures in the young Irish state.

Meantime, in 1919, Keating was appointed an assistant teacher at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. Then in 1921, he staged his first one-man show at The Hall, Leinster Street. In 1923, he was elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy.

In a Dublin exhibition of Irish art held in 1924, Keating was awarded the gold medal for his picture Homage to Hugh Lane – now hanging in the Hugh Lane Gallery. In the late 1920s, Keating was commissioned to record the building of the hydro-electric power generator at Ardnacrusha, near Limerick. He painted a number of paintings of this scheme. Not unlike the Soviet Realism School of painting, these paintings sought to promote the construction work as an achievement of heroic proportions.

Keating’s works began to attract interest abroad. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and, in 1930, he held a one-man show at the Hackett Gallery, New York. In 1931 Keating’s one-person exhibition was staged at the Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin. In 1934 he was made professor of the National College of Art in Dublin, and Professor of Painting, three years later. His 1937 exhibition at the Victor Waddington Galleries attracted considerable interest. In 1939, he was asked to paint a wall-painting for the Irish pavilion at the New York World Fair and duly created a huge mural of fifty-four panels. He was President of the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1949 to 1962, exhibiting nearly 300 works during the period. In 1963, a retrospective exhibition was staged at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, which was opened by Irish President de Valera.

In the 1966 Golden Jubilee of the Easter Rising Exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, Keating showed six portraits: those of John Devoy, Erskine Childers, Terence MacSwiney, Thomas MacCurtain, General Michael Brennan and Dr Ella Webb. (During his lifetime he painted about one hundred portraits.) Sean Keating passed away at the Adelaide Hospital, on 21 December 1977. Through his paintings, his teaching and his role in the organizations of the day, he was one of the formative influences on the history of Irish art in the 20th century.

Sean Keating 1Keating’s oil painting Men of the South (1921), now in the Crawford Gallery Cork, depicts a ‘flying column’ of IRA soldiers, ready for action during Ireland’s War of Independence. Keating painted it from sketches and photos he had made of rebels prepared to ‘sit’ for him. Like all classical history painting of this genre, it evokes the courage and ideals of the subjects rather than the bloody contradictions of a violent war. In this sense, despite its representational style, it remains an essentially Romantic composition.

Keating’s landscape painting Men of Aran (1925), inspired by visits to the West of Ireland, is one of Sean Keating’s best works. The dynamic asymetry with the figures in the foreground all staring fixedly at a point out of our sight recalls his other great painting The Men of the South, which displayed similar types and stances. The foreground figures are impervious to the activity below them, and this gives the painting it’s great energy. Unlike his fellow Irish artist Paul Henry, who focused on the landscape itself, Keating regards the landscape as subordinate to the figure and the action taking place.