Aloysius O'Kelly (1853-1936)


Aloyisius O'Kelly

O’Kelly was a painter and illustrator and one of the first Irish artists to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He trained under the orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme and with Léon Bonnat, before moving to Pont Aven and later Egypt and the United States. In 1926, at the age of 73, O’Kelly returned to Ireland after a long absence. Until recently little was known about this period of the artist's life, however, a collection of intriguing letters to his nephew, James Herbert, reveal the nature of his activities and renewed interest in Irish culture and politics. 

In November 1926 , while residing in Thurles, he wrote to his nephew to relate a disappointing visit to the Archbishop of Cashel, the aim of which was to sell some of his paintings. He describes the Archbishop as ‘…a very well fed looking man with little inclination for art.’ Soon after he writes again about a painting of the Rock of Cashel he is working on, which was commissioned by the Dean of Cashel. He also notes that he spends his evenings writing letters to influential people in Dublin in the hope that they will help him to sell some of his paintings. However, in January, he discloses his present difficulty in selling paintings in the capital, before commenting on the damage that was done to the city during the Civil War and the rebuilding work that he has observed.


A selection of items from the collection: 

Portrait photograph of Aloysius O’Kelly (1853-1936), New York, [c.1900] (see above)
Presented by Paul Conran, 1981

Letter from Aloysius O’Kelly to James Herbert, 24 November 1926
Presented by James Nadal, 2009

Letter from Aloysius O’Kelly to James Herbert, 13 December 1926
Presented by James Nadal, 2009

Letter from Aloysius O’Kelly to James Herbert, 29 January 1927
O’Kelly Presented by James Nadal, 2009