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ABOVE Cornish Landscape
  • LEFT 1976
  • MIDDLE Willow and Birch

Tony O'Malley HRHA

Tony O’Malley came to prominence as a St.Ives painter in the shadow of Peter Lanyon, Byan Wynter, Roger Hilton and Patrick Heron. Like his better known colleagues, O’Malley abstracted landscape motifs in a cogent and evocative way that struck associations with the anatomy of the figure. After returning to Ireland to live in 1990, he went on to enjoy great success.
He was born the eldest of four children. His father, Patrick, was a salesman and Sinn Fein activist. While Tony always retained Republican sympathies, he was essentially a pacifist committed to the creative power of the Arts. Apart from a stint of military service in the Irish Army in 1940, he spent most of the 1940s and 1950s working as a clerk for the  Munster and Leinster Bank. In 1943 he contracted tuberculosis, and suffered from the effects of it on his health for the rest of his life.

A painting holiday in St. Ives during the mid 1950s, when he studied at Lanyon’s St. Peter’s Loft school, inspired him to throw caution to the winds. After the death of his brother in1958 and his retirement from the bank on health grounds, he took the decision to move to Cornwall and paint full-time. He used the renowned art colony of St. Ives, then in its post-war heyday, both as a safe haven where his artistic ambitions stood a realistic chance of being fulfilled and as a spa town for a middle aged man in fragile but retrievable health. He overcame his health problems to lead a long, active and, eventually, hugely successful career.

Essentially self-taught, he drew much from the artists around him, while bringing a note of Gaelic mystery to the abstraction of St. Ives art. The ancient symbols and Celtic hieroglyphs that mark the surfaces of his mature abstract paintings added a suitably Celtic dimension to a distinctive school of painting that saw landscape as the outcome of long, slow, anthropomorphic evolution.

1913   Born in Callan, Co.Kilkenny, Ireland
1947   Began painting
1960   Went to St.Ives. Lived and worked in Cornwall.
1973   Married Jane Harris
1973-87  Working during winter visits to the Bahamas
1982   Awarded Douglas Hyde Gold Medal - Arts Council of Ireland
1988-90  Working during winter visits to Lanzarote
1989   Made honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy
Guardian Art Critic’s award for painting (Tim Hilton)
Newlyn Contemporaries Exhibition
Newlyn Society of artists
Irish American Cultural Award (for painting)
1990   Returned to live permanently in Ireland
1993   Conferred the honour of Saoi by the members of Aosdana
2003   Died, Physicianstown, 20 January.
 

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