Disappointment has been expressed locally about the lack of any works by celebrated Callan artist Tony O’Malley in RTÉ’s competition to choose Ireland’s favourite painting.
Although one of his works – King’s River Inscape with Ghosts – was nominated by Kilkenny’s Butler Gallery for the competition, it did not make the short list of 10 paintings announced this weekend. The painting was one of five works from the Butler Gallery’s permanent collection to be proposed for the competition.
It lost out, however, to works by Jack B. Yeats, Louis Le Brocquy and Harry Clarke, and to those by Johannes Vermeer and Caravaggio. No female artists are included in the list either.
Butler Gallery director Anna O’Sullivan said she was surprised to see that O’Malley had not made the final list. “The list includes work that is particularly traditional and frankly will more likely appeal to a mass audience,” she said. “Tony O’Malley’s work is beloved and he holds an important position in the history of 20th-century Irish art. O’Malley was an artist of incredible skill and range, an artist known for abstraction and regarded as one of Ireland’s leading painters.”
Such is his high regard that the gallery is preparing to have a wing dedicated to his work in its future new museum at Evan’s Home.
And as the gallery’s submission stated: “While he found recognition among his peers during his 30 years – 1960 to 1990 – among the artistic community of St Ives, Cornwall, the serious attention he deserved only came to him later in life in Ireland, the country of his birth. He settled back in Physcianstown in Callan, Co Kilkenny in 1990, with his wife Jane, where he lived and worked until his death at the age of 89.
“In 1993 he was elected a Saoi of Aosdána. When he died in 2003 he was regarded as one of Ireland’s leading painters. The Irish Museum of Modern Art displayed a major retrospective of his work in 2005. The Butler Gallery organised exhibitions ‘Tony O’Malley – The Visual Diaries’ in 2005 and ‘Constructions,’ in 2010, and published catalogues for both shows.”