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Sean Scully
14 Scully portrait 4.JPG
Born (1945-06-30) June 30, 1945 (age 75)[1]
EducationSt Joan of Arc, Roman Catholic Primary School

Highbury Park, 1950–1952
Gillespie Primary School Islington, 1952–1953
Haseltine Primary School Lower Sydenham, 1953–1956
Forest Hill Comprehensive School Dacres Road, 1956–1961
Croydon College of Art 1965–1968
Newcastle University, 1968–1972
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University

1972–1973 (graduate fellowship)[3]
Known forPainting and Printmaking

Sean Scully RA (born 30 June 1945) is an Irish-born American-based painter and printmaker who has twice been named a Turner Prize nominee. His work is held in major museum collections worldwide.

Early life

Sean Scully was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1945. Four years later his family moved to London where they lived in a working-class part of South London, moving from lodging to lodging for a number of years. [4]By the age of 9, Scully knew he wanted to become an artist, and from the age of 15 until he was 17, Scully was apprenticed at a commercial printing shop in London as a typesetter, an experience that greatly influenced the art to come.

From the age of 17 until he turned 20, despite working full-time in various jobs including graphic design, and messenger, Scully attended evening classes at the Central School of Art, focused on figurative painting. It was during a stint as a plasterer’s labourer working on the Victoria Station Ballroom that Scully made daily visits in his lunch break to the Tate Milbank, in particular to visit Van Gogh's Chair (1888), which had a profound impact. In 1965 at the age of 20, after being rejected by eleven art schools,[5] Scully studied at Croydon College of Art and later graduated from Newcastle University. He was a recipient of a graduate fellowship at Harvard in the early 1970s and subsequently settled in New York City.[3]


Scully has twice been nominated for the Turner Prize, in 1989 and 1993. He has exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, and is represented in the permanent collections of a number of museums and public galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., The Art Institute of Chicago, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the National Gallery of Australia, the Tate Gallery, London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and many other private and public collections worldwide. In 2006 Scully donated eight of his paintings to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, which opened an extension that year with a room dedicated to Scully's works.[6]

In 2005 to 2006, Scully's Wall of Light series was displayed at museums across the United States. The work originated in a trip Scully took to Mexico in 1983. He combines abstract works with figures.[3]

I hold to a very Romantic ideal of what's possible in art, and I hold to the idea of the 'personal universal.' This is a complex agenda. My project is complicated in this way, and in that sense I'm out of fashion. I'm going against the current trend towards bizarreness, oddness; as you just called it, the 'esoteric', which of course was around in the 1930s. That's what is being revisited now. In between the two great wars, there was a very strong period, particularly in Europe, of a strange, bizarre, distorted and perverse kind of figuration, with freaks in the paintings. Very disturbing twins, subjects like that. These paintings were mostly coming out of Italy and Germany. Now we have a return to that—again in a strange period, after the end of Modernism.[3]

He had his first exhibitions in China in 2015, in Beijing and Shanghai, followed by a second visit in 2016 where his new collection, Resistance and Persistence, was exhibited in Nanjing, Guangzhou and Wuhan.[4]

Scully keeps an archive of his own paintings, often buying back older works, allowing him to arrange his own exhibitions and retrospectives.[5]

As of 2015, Scully lives and works in New York City, Barcelona and Munich. In 2015 he restyled Santa Cecilia Chappel next to Montserrat Abbey in Catalonia.[7]

He was at one time a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich.

In April 2019 a television documentary, Unstoppable: Sean Scully and the Art of Everything , was broadcast on the BBC.[5]

Scully has exhibited twice in Venice in confluence with the Biennale; first in from May 9 until September 22, 2015 he mounted "Land Sea" at the Palazzo Falier[8] and in 2019 from May 11 until October 13 "Human" is at the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore.[9]

Description of work

Raval Rojo, 2004, oil on linen, 92 x 102 cm, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
Raval Rojo, 2004, oil on linen, 92 x 102 cm, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

Scully's paintings are often made up of a number of panels and are abstract. Scully paints in oils, sometimes laying the paint on quite thickly to create textured surfaces. After a brief initial period of hard-edge painting Scully abandoned the masking tape while retaining his characteristic motif of the stripe which he has developed and refined over time. His paintings typically involve architectural constructions of abutting walls and panels of painted stripes. In recent years he has augmented his trademark stripes by also deploying a mode of compositional patterning more reminiscent of a checkerboard. He has stated that this style represents the way in which Ireland has moved towards a more chequered society. He stated in 2006, "I remember growing up in Ireland and everything being chequered, even the fields and the people."

Works in collections


  1. ^ a b Hubbard, Sue (2007-08-17). "Scully, Sean: Wall of Light Desert Night (1999)". The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  2. ^ "Sean Scully: Biography". Sean Scully.
  3. ^ a b c d João Ribas (October 20, 2005). "Sean Scully". ARTINFO. Retrieved 2008-04-29. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b William Cook (7 April 2016). "Building blocks: How Sean Scully conquered China". BBC Arts. London. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Sue Feay (5 April 2019). "Unstoppable: Sean Scully and the Art of Everything, BBC2 — a portrait of abstract art's great showman". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  6. ^ Reopening of the Hugh Lane Archived 2007-11-22 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Sharp, Rob (June 30, 2015). "Sean Scully Fills a Spanish Monastery With Bursts of Color". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Javier Pes (5 March 2019). "Painter Sean Scully Is Planning a Deeply Personal Exhibition in a Venice Church That Will Pay Tribute to His Lost Son". Artnet News. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  10. ^ Divento : Exhibition National Gallery


  • Dorothy Walker (2002). Scully, Seán in Brian Lalor (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-3000-2.
  • Arthur C. Danto (2007). "Architectural Principles in the Art of Sean Scully", Border Crossings: A Magazine of the Arts, vol. 26(3), August 2007, p. 62–67. ISSN 0831-2559.
  • Donald Kuspit (2010). "Sacred Sadness: Sean Scully's Abstractions", Psychodrama: Modern Art as Group Therapy. London: Ziggurat. pp. 449–453. ISBN 9780956103895.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 July 2019, at 12:10
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