Best Irish Artists
Greatest Painters in Ireland, by Neil Collins MA, LLB (Editor).

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For details of auction records
set by artists from Ireland, see:
Most Expensive Irish Paintings

World's Best Irish Artists: Painters

All art is subjective. So this is not a comprehensive list of the best art, or an official list of the Top 10 Painters in Ireland, or anything like that. It is simply a list of my favourite Irish artists - individuals whose works have caused me to stop and think: "Wow! This is absolutely beautiful!" It doesn't mean I admire everything they produce: some of them have created works which I don't like at all. (For a compilation of the Top 10 greatest painters and sculptors ever, see also: Best Artists of All Time.)

Selection Criteria & Preferences

In compiling my list of the best living Irish artists, I have paid no attention to the auction price or monetary value of their work, nor have I given much weight to the general view of their art. I'm not interested in what critics or commercial collectors think. However, I do have preferences for certain types and styles of Irish painting.

For the historical story, see:
History of Irish Art.
For details of portraiture,
see: Irish Portrait Artists.
For details of plein-air work,
see: Plein Air Painting Ireland.
For details of realistic works, see
Representational Painting Ireland.
For a summary of landscapes,
see: Irish Landscape Artists.

For details of exhibitions & shows
in galleries across Ireland, see:
Irish Art Exhibitions.

My response to a work of art is mainly emotional. Although I enjoy unlocking the intellectual meaning of a painting, I am most affected by its visual impact. So colour and shape, and subject-matter are very important to me.

I don't have any special preference for oils, acrylics or watercolours, but I like to relate to the subject on the canvas: I prefer representational art - that is, images of the human form, or clearly recognizable objects.

Also I prefer artists to demonstrate verifiable skills: the type of painterly technique that requires proper training. Highly abstract interpretations of landscapes, bog pools or cityscapes may enthuse many so-called experts in fine art, but personally I like to see real draughtsmanship - the sort you can verify by comparing it with reality. I realize that in today's art world - a world dominated by the dead sharks and jewel-encrusted skulls of Damien Hirst - my view might be considered dangerously out of date, but that's tough. I prefer realistic landscapes, especially those painted en plein air, classical still lifes and interiors, and portraits with one head and two arms.



Although I prefer representational painting in a realist style, this doesn't exclude expressionism. After all, every picture (except perhaps certain examples of photo-realist art) is to some degree expressionist. However, when a painter becomes too abstract in his interpretation of a particular scene or object, and (as is often the case) the auction catalogue or commentary drones on about his genius, I tend to lose interest fast.

Not a Comprehensive List

Although I have endeavoured to include most painting genres, my list is far from complete. I still have to see more paintings by more painters. Over the coming months I hope to add more contemporary Irish artists to the list, and expand the number of categories.


List of My Favourite Irish Artists

Best Narrative Painter

Conor Walton (b.1970)

The sheer perfectionism of this academic-style classical realist can be seen in his mastery of the human form, chiaroscuro technique and intriguing narrative.
See: Conor Walton Biography.

Portrait of Reverend Ian Paisley.
David Nolan (b.1966)
Dublin-born Portraitist.

Best Portrait Painters
David Nolan (b.1966)

Meticulous and subtle, Nolan's portraits are uncomfortably perceptive.
See: David Nolan Biography.

Conor Walton (b.1970)

Like all his work, Walton's portraiture manages to be both expressive and precise. An amazing range of subjects from archbishops to down-and-outs.

Best Genre-Painter
Colin Davidson RUA (b.1968)

Davidson's genre-scenes are packed with multi-angle interest.
See Colin Davidson Biography.

Fallen Beech.
Henry McGrane (b.1969)
Co Meath-born Landscape Artist.

For a guide to trends and values in the
demand for artists of Ireland, please
see: Irish Art Market. For investment
ideas, see: Irish Art Investment Plan.

Best Plein-Air Landscape Painter
Henry McGrane (b.1969)

A master of perspective, compositional structure and daughtsmanship.
See Henry McGrane Biography.

Best Expressionist Landscape Painter
Donald Teskey (b.1956)

Whether depicting man-made or natural landscapes, Teskey invariably adapts his texture and colour to powerful effect. See Donald Teskey Biography.

Best Impressionist Landscape Painter
Paul Kelly (b.1968)

Kelly's rural and coastal views have an unmistakable air of sensuousness or sometimes even nostalgia - as if something drew him to the scene and urged him to paint. See Paul Kelly Biography.

Poppies in Blue Jug.
Brian Ballard (b.1943)
Belfast-born Colourist.

For more about abstraction in the
fine arts, see these resources:
Abstract Art: Styles & Artists;
Mainie Jellett;
Mary Swanzy;
Evie Hone;
For abstract landscapes, see:
Tony O'Malley;
William Crozier.

Best Painter of Reflected Light on Water
John Morris (b.1959)

Morris captures the glint of sunlight on the surface of the sea like no other artist I've seen. A wonderful minimalist style. See John Morris Biography.

Best Still Life Painters
Mark O'Neill (b.1963)

O'Neill's understated, simple compositions reveal his outstanding drawing skills and deep understanding of colour tones. See Mark O'Neill Biography.

James English (b.1946)

Fantastic treatment of reflected light in his still life oils. For examples, see James English Biography.

Conor Walton (b.1970)

This man again! His still life studies are astonishingly life-like. His colours sometimes remind me of Picasso's Cubist still life compositions.

Best Expressionist Painters
Basil Blackshaw (b.1932)

Amazingly versatile, Blackshaw's art encompasses portraiture, sports, animals, landscapes, rural life and city scenes. His evocative and distinctive colours make some of his works quite unforgettable. See Basil Blackshaw Biography.

Veiled (2007). Still Life
Conor Walton (b.1970).

Clea Van der Grijn (b.1967)

Her expressionist heads like, I Took Your Advice, are simply awesome.

Hughie O'Donoghue (b.1953)

Kilkenny-based O'Donoghue specializes in monumental - at times, almost Renaissance-like - abstract expressionist compositions that will overwhelm you. For examples, see Hughie O'Donoghue Biography.

Best Post-Impressionist Style Artist
Arthur Maderson (b.1942)

With his half-finished brush strokes of thick impasto paint and bold juxtapositions of colour, Maderson creates wonderful mosaic-like paintings that constantly intrigue. See Arthur Maderson Biography.

For a review of genre-works,
see: Irish Genre Painters.
For the historical story, see:
History of Irish Art.

For a list of the finest public
art galleries in Europe, America
and worldwide, see:
Best Art Museums.

Best Colourists
Brian Ballard (b.1943)

Using rich colours and bold brushstrokes, he has a fantastic talent for balancing blues and greys, with striking single colours. Incredibly consistent. See Brian Ballard Biography.

Marja Van Kampen (b.1949)

I have never seen any artist produce such a profusion of exotic colour. Makes Gauguin's palette look monochrome. See Marja Van Kampen Biography.

Best Interiors
Norman Teeling (b.1944)

In addition to his renowned plein-air oil paintings, Teeling paints early and mid-20th century interiors full of rich colour. See Norman Teeling Biography.

Mark O'Neill (b.1963)

More restrained in his choice of colours than Teeling, but his harmonious themes invariably produce works of great beauty.

Best Photo-Realist Painter
John Doherty (b.1949)

Captures the lost optimism and neglect of aging structures, in his unique hyper-realist style. Not happy paintings but always thoughtful and often moving. See John Doherty Biography.

Best Classical Artist
Martin Mooney (b.1960)

A graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art, Mooney's academic-style paintings have an unmistakably classic feel. I adore his views of Venice. For a couple of examples, see Martin Mooney Biography.

For details of the world's most
highly priced works of art, see:
Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings

Best Subject Painter
Graham Knuttel (b.1954)

Knuttel may have his critics, but I'm not one of them. I think his unique works throb with energy and attitude. Some are absolute masterpieces. No wonder film stars buy them. See Graham Knuttel Biography.

Best Equestrian Artist
Peter Curling (b.1955)

Most of Curling's horse paintings are so alive with movement and the sound of hooves, they make me nervous. See Peter Curling Biography.

Best Abstract Painters
Sean Scully (b.1945)

Standing in front of a monumental Scully abstract, I can almost understand why he is so fascinated by his elemental Stonehenge-type shapes. They are quite overpowering. For small-scale examples, see Sean Scully Biography.

Francis Tansey (b.1959)

Tansey's geometric-style acrylic works have immense visual impact. A sort of Piet Mondrian on steroids. See Francis Tansey Biography.


Best Drawing Master
Bernadette MacCormick (b.1969)

An emerging artist with great soul. See: Bernadette MacCormick.

Best Caricaturist
Niall O'Loughlin (b.1970)

If you like instantly recognizable, humerous caricatures that grab you by the throat, you'll love O'Loughlin. I think he's awesome.

For more information about painters and sculptors from Ireland, please see:

18th Century Irish Artists (Born before 1800)
19th Century Irish Artists (Born 1800-1900)
20th Century Irish Artists (Born 1900 onwards)


Best Artists From Around the World

For a guide to the top works of art, in painting and sculpture, please see: Greatest Paintings Ever (Top 300) and Greatest Sculptures Ever (Top 100). For the Top 20 best-selling modern and postmodernist creative practitioners, see: Top Contemporary Artists.

For the finest painters in the main five painting genres, see:
- Best History Painters (Narrative, mythological works)
- Best Portait Artists (Portraiture, individual, group, self portraits)
- Best Genre-Painters (Everyday scenes, Dutch Realist)
- Best Landscape Artists (Arcadian, Plein air, studio works)
- Best Still Life Painters (From Baroque to the present)
- For a list of the top painters/sculptors, see: Visual Artists: Greatest.

• For more about the great artists, see: Homepage.


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