Oisín Kelly (1915-81)

1915-81 [bapt. Austin Kelly], b. 17 May, Dublin, son of William Kelly, Principal of James Street National School, and Elizabeth (née McLean] - of Protestant lineage; ed. Mountjoy School, and grad. TCD, Mod. Langs. (French and Irish); attended attended night-classes at the National College of Art [NCA; later National College of Art and Design]; passed a scholarship year in Germany in 1937;

taught at Bishop Foy School, Waterford and at St Columba’s College, Dublin - teaching later taught English, Irish, French and Art at 1946-1964 [var. from 1943]; briefly studied under Henry Moore in 1948–49 during a period of leave; m. Ruth Gwynn, dg. of the TCD Provost; settled at Firhouse, nr. Rathfarnham; exhibited at Oireachtas and joined the Committee of the Living Art [EILA] in 1951; at Living Art [EILA] and RHA but shrank from private shows up to his retrospect in 1978; he was elected to the RHA in 1965;

Kelly received numerous commissions in wood-carvings for Catholic churches in spite of his Protestant background; he received a state commission for “The Children of Lir” (1964), placed in the Garden of Remembrance (Parnell Sq. Dublin) on 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, sealing his reputation; considered an eclectic artist who mixed popular Irish images and themes with a more modernist sense of style, won the Oireachtas Gold Prize with “Faoileán” [Seagulls], 1969; made commissioned statue of James Larkin on O’Connell Street (1977);

took up residence at the Kilkenny Design Centre in 1966; he used the Dublin Art Foundry for many of his bronze pieces; his last work was an uncompleted bronze figure of Turlough Carolan for Mohill, Co. Leitrim, which was installed after his death; d. 13 Oct. 1981.

The Artist

An Album of Paintings by Oisín Kelly

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Commissions for the Catholic Church include: Our Lady of Fatima for the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Limerick (1949); copper crucifix for the Church of the Redeemer, Dundalk;the newly built St Theresa’s Church at Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone, Kelly  St Brigid, for the Church of St Brigid in the Curragh Camp; St Peter, for the Church of St Peter, Milford, Co. Donegal; St Christopher for the church at Dublin Airport; the Last Supper (in teak), for Church of Corpus Christi at Knockanure, Co. Kerry; St Patrick for St Patrick’s Church near Lifford, Co. Donegal; engraved version of the Last Supper on a 4x14 -metre slate for the newly-built St Theresa’s Church at Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone (located over main entrance).

Public commissions & commemorations incl. Two Working Men, 1969, originally intended for Dublin but moved instead to Cork; a statue of Sir Roger Casement (1971) for Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry, overlooking Banna Strand; a giant grasshopper in metal for St Mary’s Girls’ Primary School at Strabane, Co. Tyrone (1972); the statue of Jim Larkin for O"Connell Street, Dublin (1977), and Chariot of Fire on front of the Irish Life Centre, Dublin (unveiled posthum. 1982), See Andrew Carpenter & Paula Murphy, eds., Art and Architecture of Ireland Volume III: Sculpture 1600-2000 (Royal Irish Academy), pp.167ff.

See also Invaluable - Auction Results > Oisin Kelly - online; accessed 23.02.2021.

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