Frank O'Meara
Irish Plein-Air Landscape Artist: Biography, Paintings.

Old Mill At Grez.
By Frank O'Meara
One of the great Irish Artists of the
19th Century.

Frank O'Meara (1853-88)

The tragically short-lived Irish painter Francis Joseph O'Meara is considered to be one of Ireland's most outstanding plein-air artists. Renowned for his sensitive, lyrical landscapes, he was one of the greatest painters of the Grez-sur-Loing artist colony near Fontainebleau, where John Lavery (1856-1941) was also active. In fact, he painted comparatively few works before returning to Ireland to die of malaria at the tragic age of 35, but his surviving works possess a wistful melancholy enhanced by his intense feel for light and colour. O'Meara remains one of Ireland's most valued and sought-after artists by collectors across the country. See Most Expensive Irish Paintings.

O'Meara was born in Carlow, the son of a doctor. Little is known about his initial art training, although surviving sketchbooks show a number of Carlow landscapes and Welsh scenes.

Reverie (1882).

In about 1873, at the age of 20, he travelled to France, where (along with the American portraitist John Singer Sargent) he studied in the Parisian studio of Carolus-Duran (1838-1917) - a French Impressionist and colour tonal enthusiast - before making his way to Grez-sur-Loing, a village close to the Forest of Fontainebleau. He remained here for most of the remainder of his life, absorbing the influence of French Impressionism or 'naturalism', along with the mood of fin-de-siecle symbolism and its accompanying tonal technique.

O'Meara's Impressionist landscape compositions typically include a female figure by the water's edge - sometimes a young girl, occasionally an elderly peasant - captured in sympathetic colours and precise tones for maximum harmony. Although his earlier works utilize darker colours and areas of impasto for textural contrast, his later pictures tend to be lighter, with paint applied thinly and more evenly. O'Meara was known as a very slow painter, typically completing only 3 pictures a year. Moreover, the sense of melancholia in his works may be attributed to personal misfortune: for much of his life he suffered from ill-health, was close to poverty and had two failed love affairs.

Now considered to be one of the greatest Irish artists of the 19th Century, O'Meara exhibited only once in Ireland - at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1879, when he was 26 - although he exhibited his paintings at the Paris Salon that same year - and later, on several occasions in group art shows in London and at the Royal Glasgow Institute. After spending the winter of 1887-88 at Etaples, near Boulogne on the Northern coast of France, he returned to Carlow the following Spring and died in the Autumn. Five of his paintings can be viewed in the Hugh Lane Gallery, in Dublin, while a sixth is in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Most Expensive Painting By Frank O'Meara

The auction record for a work by Frank O'Meara was set in 1999, when his outdoor figure painting, entitled Reverie, was sold at Christie's, in London, for £450,000.

• For more biographies, see: Homepage.
• For the evolution of Irish arts, see History of Irish Art.
• For more about fine arts in Ireland, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For a review of landscape art in Ireland, see Irish Landscape Artists.
• For a summary of portraiture, see Irish Portrait Artists.

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