Famous Irish Artists
March 17 marks St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate this day of Irish pride, we wanted to give a few shout outs to some of the great Irish artists of modern history. While many prominent Irish artists now live and work internationally, much of these artists’ works still incorporate elements of cultural identity and national ideals. Much more than shamrocks, leprechauns, and the color green, below are four notable Irish artists of the last century.
Image Source: Conor Harrington. Conor Harrington, Fight Club (2013)
Born in Cork, Ireland, Conor Harrington combines the style of old masters with modern trends. With his origins in graffiti, Harrington has expanded his practice into street art and fine art, with exhibitions and murals spanning the globe. Now based in London, England, Harrington’s work offers a unique blend of high and low culture while also fusing blunt realism with ethereal chaos.
Illustrating the human form in an almost hypnotic manner, he obscures certain parts of the body while realistically depicting others. Often representing military figures and historical men, Harrington explores the masculinity of contemporary culture.
Image Source: Galerie Michael. Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969)
Born in 1909, Francis Bacon was a figurative painter who often abstracted his subjects, depicting them to be violently distorted, impassioned, and strikingly distinctive.
Focusing on portraiture, Bacon infused elements of Surrealism and film to display subjects as isolated and traumatized. With a career spanning the World Wars, Bacon explored themes on the destructive nature of humanity and existential crises. Bacon successfully forged a style that incorporated the traditions of painting with the modernization of photography, making him one of the most widely recognized figurative artists of the mid-20th century.
Image Source: Sean Scully Venice. Sean Scully, The Gatherer (2014)
A two-time nominee for the Turner Prize, Sean Scully is a painter and print maker known for his geometric and abstract works. Using a rough brushstroke technique thickly laid to create a textured surface, Scully creates striped and checkerboard designs that reminisce on the aesthetics of minimalism.
Although his finished pieces do not resemble landscape paintings, he sites three locations as the primary inspiration for his work: the landscapes of Ireland, North London, and New York City. Despite the consistent visual theme of his work, Scully demonstrates the infinite creative possibilities surrounding a single motif.
Image Source: Kerlin Gallery. Dorothy Cross, Connemara (2013)
An artist of many mediums, Dorothy Cross utilizes sculpture, photography, video, and installation. She is considered one of Ireland’s top international artists.
Focusing on themes of memory, sexuality, cultural identity, and personal history, Cross is also known for using unlikely materials and found objects, such as cow skins, udders, and stuffed snakes. Her work ranges from distressing to comical while always intelligently conceived. Cross represented Ireland at the Venice Biennial in 1993, and in 2005, the Irish Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective of her work.
Irish for Your Iris
Ireland hosts many more outstanding artists than just the few listed here, so feel free to send your favorites our way. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!