Painting, Visual Artist
1913 – 2003
Who was Tony O'Malley?
Tony O'Malley was a self-taught Irish painter. He was born in Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland and, while he drew and painted for private pleasure from childhood, he worked as a bank officìal until a long battle with tuberculosis in the 1940s knocked him off the normal course of his life. He began painting in earnest while convalescing and, though he did at first return to bank work, he continued to paint and in 1951 he began exhibiting his work.
In 1955 he holidayed in St. Ives in Cornwall, then an important center of abstract art and home to Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, and Bryan Wynter, who Tony O'Malley met and worked with on his trip. He returned again in 1957 and in 1958 retired from the bank to paint full-time. Prompted by a mixture of frustration at the indifference shown in Ireland to his work, an attraction to the sense of freedom he felt among the artists in Cornwall, and an engagement with the attempt to represent natural forms current in their abstraction, he settled in St Ives in 1960. While he was strongly influenced by the St Ives artistic community, his relationship was one of engagement rather than direct participation. His painting never completely assimilated the rigour and formality of the British abstract painters; it retained a muscular extravagance which is central to his artistic identity. Speaking to John O'Regan in an interview reproduced in Works 14: Tony O'Malley he explained:
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