The exciting announcement that the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts will be proceeding with their 139th Annual exhibition surely gives us the perfect opportunity to look at some of the masters of Irish art and how their work has influenced the history of art through the years.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was born to an English family in Dublin, having spent his childhood in County Kildare, he then moved with his family to London. After Bacon’s death, Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin were fortunate enough to have the remaining works from the Kensington gallery of Bacon donated to their gallery, which must have been an amazing honour and of course huge benefit for locals, keen to view the works of such an enormously influential artist. His contemporary works, explore all our emotions in the most raw and imaginative manner and have become some of the most iconic pieces of art in the world. His influences from Velazquez to Van Gogh, to Muybridge’s photographs were all such an important part of his style, translated in his most unique manner, taking the inspiration of old masters as the roots of creating timeless contemporary works. Perhaps angry, perhaps sad but most importantly powerfully confident statements shout out from the canvas. They grasp colour, line, texture and subject matter and create captivating works making Bacon one of the most influential painters of the 20th Century. Like his work or not you cannot help but view and question the themes, question the emotions they evoke, maybe you look away feeling uncomfortable or continue to puzzle out what Bacon was trying to convey.
William Orpen 1878-1931 was another Irish artist who also worked mainly in London. He was an extremely important artist during World War I, where his official portraits sensitively told the story of the tragedy of war. His portraits maximise light and colour to fully create the atmosphere and indeed characters of his subject matter. His sensitivity and passion for his sitters is evident, using bold colours to tell the story and convey the strength you feel in his work.
Yates, Lavery, Leech are other Irish artists whose work we would always consider when looking at the influence of Irish artists but for me the works of Bacon and Orpen would resonate most with my style and influences. I may not like all of Bacon’s work but I have huge respect for him, like all great artists he had a unique vision and hewed his own path and I greatly admire Orpen’s bold use of colour and graphic line, some of his portraits being reminiscent of pre-war poster artists.
I myself will be proud to exhibit at the 139th Royal Ulster Academy Annual Art Exhibition where my painting “Light into the Dark” has been selected as a finalist. It will be on display and for sale at the exhibition in the Ulster Museum from 16th October 2020–3rd January 2021. Sales will be online and part of this will involve an exciting virtual tour of the exhibition where clients who cannot make it to the exhibition will be able to click on the works they are interested in to view in more depth and buy online.