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 Eamonn O'Doherty  (1939 - 2003)

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Lived/Active: Ireland      Known for: public figure sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Eamonn O'Doherty

Irish Sculptor Eamonn O'Doherty has created many of Ireland's late 20th-century public sculptures and yet remains relatively anonymous.  His best known Irish sculpture is large scale public work including 'Fauscailt', County Wexford (1998), 'Crann an Oir' (Tree of Gold) Central Bank Plaza Dublin (1991), and the 'Galway Hookers', Eyre Square, Galway (1984). He has worked in bronze, stone and various other media.

Born in Derry, he grew up in the West End Park area of the city.  He graduated from University College Dublin with an Architectural Degree and was awarded a Visiting Scholarship to Harvard University.  Before turning to sculpture full-time in 2002, he lectured for many years at the Faculty of Architecture at the Dublin Institute of Technology as well as the University of Jordan, the University of Nebraska and the Ecole Speciale d'Architecture in Paris.

Although O'Doherty has bordered on abstraction* with such works as the Galway Hookers, which seems to constantly change with the light that informs it, he is not, by nature an abstract artist.  Like another Irish Sculptor, Seamus Murphy, he is deeply involved in the idea of Irishness, in particular the idea that Ireland is an island and the sense of leaving it and setting out.  O'Doherty's Emigrants is intentionally sentimental, focusing on a family group who are leaving Ireland (Derry was a major port of exodus for Irish after the famine) for America. They are carrying luggage, a book, a fiddle, to indicate the cultural baggage that emigrants brought to the New World.

Other important works include the 'James Connolly Memorial', Skellig' Cahirciveen (1995), Passage, New Antrim Hospital (1994) and the Great Hunger Memorial in Westchester, New York (2001).  Recent commissions include a 7-metre high sculpture, entitled Damselfly, on behalf of Waterford County Council (2005).

Fiercely critical of elitism (a charge he particularly levels at Aosdana*), he has never had a gallery, or more importantly, a proper solo show, although one is planned for later in 2008. Again, he shares this in common with Seamus Murphy who only had one exhibition in his long career.

O Doherty's work is often imbued with irony, and controversy surrounded his 1988 Anna Livia Fountain (Anna Livia Plurabelle is a character in James Joyce s Finnegan s Wake).  It became known as the 'Floozie In The Jacuzzi' (a nickname used by the Artist himself), which was placed in the heart of 'dear old dirty Dublin' (O'Connell Street).  The fountain caused a storm of protests from people who insisted the work wasn't up to his usual standard, and it became a target for litter and graffiti for drunks who frequently dumped washing up liquid into the fountain at weekends.  The work was relocated to the Memorial Gardens facing Collins Barracks.

One of the more visible figures in the recent history of Irish art, O'Doherty is also skilled in printmaking, painting and photography.  He has won several awards, for various forms of art, including the the Connor/Moran prize for sculpture at the annual Royal Hibernian Academy* exhibition (2006).  In addition, he has co-authored several books on subjects as far apart as music and environmental planning.

Online Encyclopedia of Irish and World Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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