John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Press Cuttings Young Man with Spark of Genius

Perhaps the quiet dark-haired young man who painted your hall door this spring was the artist who may yet revolutionise religious art in this country.

Yesterday John Kelly, a 25-year-old Dublin house-painter, held his first exhibition of paintings. Everyone who crowded into the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery, on St. Stephen’s Green, gasped in astonishment at the highly-coloured pictures depicting religious scenes with a depth of feeling rarely rivalled in Ireland, except by the late Evie Hone.

An eminent authority on art and member of the Arts Council of Ireland, Father Donal O’Sullivan, S.J., opened the exhibition with glowing praise and encouragement for this new young artist.

“For four hundred years,”said Father O’Sullivan, “Europe has suffered from decadence which began in religious art, a decadence which began with Raphael and which has lasted everywhere with a few exceptions until the present day. Now John Kelly, a workman, has forgotten Raphael and has shown a spark of genius coupled with sincerity in his subject which all churchmen in Ireland should support.”

John Kelly was educated in Marlboro Street National School, he began painting pictures six years ago, and went to art classes in his spare time. He has only been outside Ireland  once in his life on a bicycle trip to Rome.

“I am giving up my job house-painting for the summer” said John, “and I hope to be able to devote my whole time to painting pictures and learning more about art; then next winter I will go back to my old job painting doors and windows so as to earn some money. 

Barbara Murphy, Irish Press, 27.04.1957