Paul Kelly
Irish Plein-Air Landscape Painter, Impressionist-Style Artist.

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For late 20th century paintings,
see: Contemporary Art.

Paul Kelly (b.1968)
Plein-Air Landscape Painter

When characterizing Kelly's landscape painting one is reminded of the phrase used by one critic to describe the great French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875): he paints with the eye of a Realist, but the heart of a Romantic. Because there is an unmistakable air of sensuousness in Kelly's work - a gleam of colour, a clammy dampness, a smell of evening, a coldness, a feeling of anticipation or sometimes even nostalgia - as if something drew him to the scene and urged him to paint. As he himself says: "I paint like a conductor conducting his orchestra hitting certain notes and keys - sometimes it's a frenzy like state."

• For other postmodernists in Ireland, see: Contemporary Irish Artists.
• For the world's best, see: Top 200 Contemporary Artists.



Even more unusual - that is, for a completely self-taught artist - Kelly has marvellous compositional ability. See how his paintings draw you in, and hold your eye. Notice how he makes you want to move the camera and see more of the landscape. It is this natural instinct for composition - along with his use of shadow, and his understanding of tonal variation - which makes him one of Ireland's great contemporary painters. One can understand why his shows sell out so fast.

A strong believer in solid draughtsmanship, Kelly paints in a Realist (or Pre-Impressionist) style, focusing on coastal scenes and rural views within his local area of North Dublin, although - in keeping with his conviction that a true artist should be able to turn his hand or brush to anything - he continues to experiment in all the genres, and travels regularly within Ireland and parts of Europe in search of suitable subjects.


For a list of the leading Irish
painters, including exponents of
Impressionist painting, see:
Best Irish Artists.

The width of his artistic horizon is also indicated by his long term influences, which include the great Impressionist portrait painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the prolific Swedish genre and portrait artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) and the contemporary Chinese-American painter Sunny Apinchapong-Yang.

Furthermore, even if most of his landscapes do have an Irish flavour, they fall squarely within the European plein-air painting tradition of the likes of Nathaniel Hone the Younger (1831-1917), Augustus Nicholas Burke (1838-91), Frank O'Meara (1853-88), Roderic O'Conor (1861-1940), Walter Osborne (1859-1903) and John Lavery (1856-1941), as well as Newlyn artists Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947) and Norman Garstin (1847-1926), to name but a few. Indeed, Kelly's evocation of this golden age of Irish art is a major reason for his appeal.

Born in Dublin, Kelly started drawing and painting as a toddler, although he received no formal art training either as a child or a student. He burst upon the Irish art scene in the early 1990s, winning the James Kennedy Memorial Award for portraiture at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) at the age of 23, and, nine years later, the Artist of the Year Award (Ireland Fund of Great Britain), one of the most prestigious honours in UK/Irish fine art. At the same time, he was enjoying tremendous commercial success with sell-out exhibitions at the Gorry Gallery in Dublin, in 1992 and 1993, while still working out of his garden shed.

In 2000, his huge painting The Liffey Rowers, was exhibited at the Irish cultural exposition at the John F Kennedy Centre For the Performing Arts, in Washington DC. In 2002, he made the first of several visits to Lambay Island, building up a diverse portfolio of more than 70 oil paintings, which were exhibited in 2004 to great acclaim. In addition, he has been a frequent exhibitor at the RHA. Since 2004, in addition to a solo exhibition in Killarney, he has shown at a variety of select group exhibitions around the country, maintaining his reputation as one of the most talented Irish landscape artists of recent times. His works remain highly sought after by artists as well as collectors, and are represented in numerous public and private collections both here and abroad. He is a founder-member of the new professional artists club Oil Painters of Ireland.

In terms of his artistic contribution, Kelly exemplifies the aesthetic power of representational painting. Like his famous predecessors who populated the artistic colonies of Barbizon, Pont-Aven and Grez-sur-Loing, as well as modern Irish artists like Henry McGrane and Norman Teeling, he allows nature to speak for herself - and how eloquent she is!

At the same time, although - like other outstanding contemporary artists such as John Morris - Kelly is living proof that representational art does not require years of academic training and life-drawing, he shows that it does demand a very high level of curiosity, discipline, commitment and skill: qualities which need to be carefully nurtured by teachers and art organizations alike.

To contact Paul Kelly, or to see more of his works, please visit his website:


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