The Road by Seán McSweeney (1935 - 2018)

Date: 1965
Dimensions: 120 × 100cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Purchased in 1969


Sean McSweeney moved to Sligo in the 1980s when his work has become synonymous with the county. His mother came from Ballyconnell in Co.Sligo and McSweeney spent his childhood holidays there. His present studio is in the former schoolhouse where his mother attended classes. Thus the locality in which the artist lives and works and which he paints has very strong personal associations.

The Road is a relatively early work which predates the artist’s move to the West. It was painted while he was living in Wicklow, close to Dublin where McSweeney grew up and became an artist. Largely self-taught like many of the leading Irish painters of his generation, McSweeney learnt about art from looking at the paintings of Paul Henry and Jack Yeats in public collections. His work also shows his awareness of international post-war painting. It reflects his willingness to experiment with colour and form and to develop a strong personal style which is inspired by landscape. Roadways and bogholes – evidence of man’s interference and man’s presence in the land form the focus of many of McSweeney’s paintings. In this work a roadway leads up a steep mountain side where it appears like a cascade of colour incapable of penetrating the summit. The act of painting the landscape has transformed it into a luminous almost abstract image. The use of different brushstrokes and techniques of applying the paint are evident, creating a richly textured surface. Colours have been multilayered revealing sudden contrasts of tone. McSweeney’s relationship to the landscape is ultimately a romantic one in which he struggles and succeeds in capturing its essence through paint.

Written by Roisin Kennedy


About the Artist

Seán McSweeney (1935 - 2018)

Born 1935, Dublin, Ireland. Died 2018. Seán McSweeney is one of Irelands foremost painters. Born in Dublin in 1935 he was a landscape painter. An innate colourist, his work is sensuous and lyrical, following in the tradition of Jack Yeats, Patrick Collins, both Sligo born painters and Nano Reid. In the early sixties he started showing in group exhibitions like the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and the Oireachtas. He had his first solo exhibition in the Dawson Gallery in 1965. Since then he has had regular solo exhibitions and his work has been included in group exhibitions in Ireland and abroad. In 1990 Galway Arts Festival organised a retrospective exhibition of his work. In 1967 he went to live in Hollywood in Wicklow and lived and worked there until 1984 when he moved with his family to Ballyconnell in North Sligo, his mothers birth place. His studio is the old Ballyconnell school house. Here he painted the shoreline and an area of cutaway bog close to his studio. He is represented by the Taylor Galleries in Dublin.

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