Tony O'Malley

Tony O'Malley was one of the major figures in Irish contemporary art. He has exhibited widely since the 1950's in England, Ireland and Europe.

Tony O'Malley was born in Callan, Co Kilkenny in 1913. He worked for many years as a clerk with the Munster and Leinster Bank, but after contracting tuberculosis and long periods in hospitals and sanitoria, he was retired from the bank and this led him in his forties to pursue a long-desired career as a full-time painter. For the next thirty years O'Malley lived in Cornwall where he came into contact with many of the leading figures in the community of artists there, including Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Terry Frost and Bryan Wynter.

In 1973 he married the Canadian painter Jane Harris, and together they made regular visits to the Isles of Scilly and the Bahamas. Islands, both geographical and spiritual, figure much in his painting, especially the wild and historic Clare Island, the seat of the O'Malley clan, where his father was born.

In 1990 the O'Malleys returned to Ireland to settle in Physicianstown, close to the artist's home town of Callan. He died there in 2002. In spite of his long exile, O'Malley is a quintessentially Irish artist, imbued with intense feelings for the tribal, the local, the familial. Entirely self-taught 0and cut off in his early years from outside artistic influences, he was obliged to invent his own visual language and to develop a large independence of spirit - technical and psychic impulses to which he has always remained true.

In 1993, Tony O'Malley was conferred by President Mary Robinson with the Aosdana title of Saoi, an honour confined to only five living artists. He has also received the prestigious IMMA/Glen Dimplex Lifetime Achievement Award.

"O'Malley has a rare and remarkable talent. He is certainly one of the most profoundly gifted painters ever to have come from Ireland."
Patrick Heron