ONE of Ireland’s oldest working artists, Thomas Ryan, turned 90 in October.
For the month of November, the Limerick art legend will be honoured with an exhibition of his work at the People’s Museum of Limerick, Pery Square
At Tuesday night’s launch, the evening was well attended by around a hundred friends and supporters of the artist and the museum.
Ryan himself gave a rousing speech on his early life in Limerick, his delight at reaching the age of 90 as a working artist, and revealed some choice memories about the production of some of the paintings in the room.
Ryan was presented with a birthday cake by Lady Dunraven.
His many accolades include being the designer of one pound coin and Millennium fifty pence. Hewas president of Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts from 1982 to 1992 and chairman of the RHA Trust, an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London and Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, governor of the National Gallery of Ireland, 1979-1982, president of the United Arts Club, Dublin, president of the Limerick Art Society, to name just a few.
Piano music played in the background on the restored historic grand piano, while Limerick people and visitors mingled and viewed the paintings at the event.
David O'Brien, CEO of Limerick Civic Trust, gave a speech on the importance of Thomas Ryan’s contribution to art both locally and nationally.
Eamonn McQuade of Limerick Art Society also spoke and emphasised Thomas' longtime commitment to encouraging and mentoring younger artists. Museum manager Dr Rose Anne White commented, “Thomas Ryan is one of Ireland’s most significant artists. We are incredibly grateful to be able to show a selection of his works in our museum on Pery Square, showing his versatility across portraits, still life and historical scenes.”
The exhibition is hosting a selection of his most seminal works, including one of his most famous paintings, “The GPO 1916” which hung for over 20 years in Leinster House.
Thomas was born in St Joseph Street in Limerick and trained at Limerick School of Art and later at the National College of Art.
He was made a Freeman of Limerick in 2007 and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick.
Ryan also garnered acclaim for his depiction of the funeral of Roger Casement after his repatriation to Ireland in 1965.
Discussing the artist’s versatility, Naomi O’Nolan, head of exhibition at the Hunt Museum said: “he has always been a champion of the Limerick arts scene, and has supportive of the community for all of his life.”
“He likes painting still-lifes, interiors and historical figures,” and referenced his painting of Éamon de Valera.
At that particular exhibition 15 years ago, over 70 of his works spanning his career were on display,
Borne of the traditional art scene, Maurice MacGonigal served as one of his mentors when he was a budding artist; hence, Ryan isn’t an artist pigeonholed alongside contemporary or abstract artists.
“He liked to paint in the traditional sense, but he was a very skilled artist in his drawings and paintings and perspectives,” O’Nolan stated.
“He was not a fan of abstract art. His art stands the test of time, and it is for that reason his art will endure.”
The People’s Museum of Limerick is open Monday - Friday, 11am to 3pm, currently, with extended opening hours coming soon.
See peoplesmuseum.ie for news and updates.