Markey Robinson
Irish Expressionist Artist, Primitive Naif Painter. Biography, Paintings.

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Primitivism/Primitive Art.


Markey Robinson (1918-99)

The Irish expressionist artist, landscape painter and sculptor Markey Robinson was born in Belfast in 1918. An avid reader of fine art books as a child, he trained for a time at the Belfast College of Art. It was then time to earn a living. Robinson became a merchant seaman, and later a welder, but his main passion remained painting. Sadly, the next thirty years were tough. Despite showing his paintings in a number of exhibitions, it wasn't until the 1980s that he achieved significant commercial success as an artist.

Now noted as the foremost Irish Primitive painter, Markey Robinson began exhibiting his works in 1942 when three of his paintings - "autumn Landscape", Boulogne" and "Irish Port, 1940" were shown at the Ulster Academy of Arts exhibition. Another show in Belfast the following year was followed by his works being included in the Civil Defence Exhibition in London (1944). He showed again at the Ulster Academy in 1944, as well as the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in Dublin. He continued exhibiting in Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh and London throughout the 1940s and 1950s. His works included French scenes, portrait art, and landscape painting as well as a quantity of sculpture. In 1961, Piccolo Gallery in Belfast staged Markey Robinson's first solo exhibition.

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types, and genres of visual art,
see: Definition of Art.

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For another primitive or naif
artist, see: James Dixon of
Tory Island.

In 1969, he went to Spain on a painting trip, only to discover on his return that his art studio in Belfast had been destroyed by fire. He returned to Spain where he worked for about nine months before moving to Dublin. There, he enjoyed a number of exhibitions, including the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) (1977), several at the Oriel Gallery, above which was his art studio. Indeed, it was Oliver Nulty at the Oriel Gallery who almost single-handedly promoted Markey Robinson to critics and collectors. Without his assistance Markey Robinson might have emigrated to the United States in his early years.


As it was, Robinson's reputation soared during the 1980s and 1990s. He had one-man shows at a number of galleries, including: Sligo Art Gallery (1977); Farins Gallery, Washington DC (1983); Apollo Galleries, Backrock, Dublin (1984); Peel Gallery, Montreal (1984); Galerie Weber, Geneva (1985); Swan Centre, Dublin (1986); Walker Gallery, Coleraine, County Derry (1988); George Gallery, Dublin [Retrospective] (1988); Lincoln Gallery, Dublin (1988); Emer Gallery, Belfast (1989). During this period he travelled to France, North Africa and the USA.

Style of Painting

As an artist, Markey Robinson produced artworks with similar elements to those of Matisse, Derain and Picasso (especially his clown and figure studies). His work has also been influenced by the Incas and the Aztecs, as evidenced by his authentic style of bold brush paintwork. But Robinson's reputation rests in large part on his evocative landscapes, depicting the cold, misty, western Irish seaboard with its hues of grey, blue, green and white. In contrast, his Spanish-scene paintings are dressed in vivid, hot colours of red, orange, electric blue, pink and yellow. In his later years, Markey Robinson returned to Belfast where he died suddenly in January 1999. His paintings are represented in a number of public and private collections of Irish art.

Most Expensive Painting By Markey Robinson

The auction record for a work by Markey Robinson was set in 2007, when his landscape painting, entitled The Harbour at Ardglass, County Down, was sold at DeVeres, in Dublin, for €54,000.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For details of other primitive painters, see: Irish Artists: Paintings and Biographies.
• For more about naif artists like Markey Robinson, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For more about Naif painting, see: Homepage.

History of Irish Art
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