Hughie O'Donoghue
Biography of Anglo-Irish Abstract Expressionist Painter.

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Hughie O'Donoghue (b.1953)

Childhood and Youth

Born in Britain to an Irish mother and English father, the expressionist painter Hughie O'Donoghue grew up in Manchester, although he passed many of his early summers in Bangor Erris, North-west Mayo, from where his mother had reluctantly emigrated in 1937. The stark Irish scenery with its accompanying sense of tragedy, derived from the days of The Great Famine, found later expression in O'Donoghue's art, as did the knowledge and experience he gained from his father Daniel, who introduced his son to many of the great European cultural traditions derived from Classical Greek art, the Renaissance and later eras.

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Thus encouraged, O'Donoghue became a dedicated student of art in general and fine art painting in particular. He studied drawing and painting at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, and since then has been exhibiting his work in a variety of international solo and group exhibitions, gradually evolving a style of art all of his own. He has completed several series of works - for instance, on the Second World War, the Passion of Christ, and the Prodigal Son - as well as numerous shorter series and individual paintings, often on a monumental scale. His painterly skills, together with his research into his subjects, has enabled him to produce a highly acclaimed body of work, several prestigious awards (including an honorary doctorate from University College Cork) and a distinguished reputation, not least for his masterful expression of human suffering. He has exhibited widely in the UK and also in the USA, Spain, Italy, Australia, and Germany. A monograph entitled Hughie O'Donoghue: Painting, Memory, Myth was published by Merrill in May 2003.

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Most Expensive Irish Paintings.

In 1995, he returned to Ireland with his wife Clare and his family, settling in county Kilkenny, where he currently lives and works. He was resident on the Artist’s Work Programme at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1996, where he painted and took public master classes in drawing.


O'Donoghue is not an easy artist to understand, as his work includes highly complex references to history and art, as well as family memories.


For the last 12 years, he has been working on a series of paintings entitled "Via Crucis" - a contemporary version of the Passion. In 1997, he showed a selection of these paintings at the Haus der Kunst, Munich. In 1999, further selections of the Via Crucis - which were donated to the Office of Public Works was shown at the Royal Hibernian Academy's Gallagher Gallery. Two recent Irish exhibitions of Hughie O'Donoghue's works were "Naming the Fields" (2001) and "Parable of the Prodigal Son" (Fenton Gallery) (2005). Not unlike the religious painters of the Renaissance, Hughie O'Donoghue often paints on a monumental scale, creating huge canvases and charcoal drawings that have reminded some art critics of "the Abstract Expressionism of the fifties in their heroic scale and intention." For example, one of his recent works, "Crossing the Rapido" is a 7-metre-long charcoal and graphite drawing.


O'Donoghue's works have appeared in many solo shows at venues including: the Irish Museum of Modern art (IMMA), Rubicon Gallery, Dublin; the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo; Cartwright Hall, Bradford; Pfefferle Galley, Munich; Purdy Hicks Gallery, London, Galerie Helmut Pabst, Frankfurt, and The Imperial War Museum London.

His group exhibitions have included Last Dreams of the Millennium: The Re-emergence of British Romantic Painting, at the University Art Gallery, California State University; When Time Began to Rant and Rage: Figurative Painting from 20th Century Ireland, at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the University of California Art Museum, Berkeley, the Grey Art Gallery & Study Center, New York and at the Barbican Art Gallery, London (1998).


O’Donoghue's paintings are represented in public art collections including: Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; Trinity College, Dublin; Arts Council of Great Britain; The British Museum, London; The Imperial War Museum, London; The National Gallery, London; Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow; The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, USA; and the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Most Expensive Work by Hughie O'Donoghue

The auction record for a work by Hughie O'Donoghue was set in 2007, when his portrait painting, entitled The Wreck, was sold at Sotheby's, in London, for £31,700.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For more about expressionism in Ireland, see: Homepage.
• For more about painters in Ireland like Hughie O'Donoghue, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For details of other contemporary painters and sculptors, see: Irish Artists: Paintings and Biographies.

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