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 Edmund Sullivan  (1940 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine / Ireland      Known for: Scenes of Ireland painting, marine and landscape

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Biography from Sunflower Fine Art Galleries, Mirrors, & Picture F:
Born and raised in New York City, Edmund Sullivan inherited a passion for Ireland from his parents, natives of Derry City and Bonane, County Kerry. Happy-go-lucky, curious and alert to every detail of the world surrounding him, Edmund’s growing up years were fast-paced and vital, with the hum of Irish tales and talk always in the air at home, while out in the Bronx streets it was rough and tumble.  But as he matured to manhood, his family's stories of Irish courage and struggle in the old country seemed to be the last thing on Edmund's mind.

Yet when it struck, the decision to devote his life's energy to bringing the richness of fine art to the Irish and Irish American people hit Edmund like lightening. The idea came at him suddenly, full on:  he must find a way to transport the spirit of Ireland, that "small, magnificent country", to its people in America.  Where were the images that honored the beloved homeland of his ancestors in its beauty and magic?  They did not exist.

It began when he read a book about The Great Hunger in Ireland. American-born and insulated by an ocean and the generation of his parents, for the first time, in his 20’s, Sullivan felt a depth of outrage at the injustices he read about that did not abate for more than 10 years. He found himself powerfully moved by stories of struggle and conflict that prevented the establishment of a visual arts tradition in a country overrun by invaders for 800 years. Then his mother and sisters brought back tourist photos from a family trip to Ireland, a mythic land that he had never seen.  Shortly he had left a high paying job, sold everything he owned, even to his shirts and ties. His idea, still in its embryo stage, was to capture a precious part of Ireland's history.

And, in fact, Sullivan is the first American painter in history to focus his life's work on Ireland. His mission has remained true and consistent to this original vision for more than 35 years.

In 1976, Edmund made the first of dozens of trips to Ireland with one purpose in mind: to experience and absorb everything he could about her essence as the homeland of her courageous people and to paint from nature everything he saw and felt. Traveling light, carrying little besides his painting gear, he wended his way across the Irish countryside, walking and driving, talking and listening to the Irish who could share their knowledge and intuition of their native land with him. Sullivan's intent was to paint every nuance of Ireland's landscape, with its constantly changing weather, rolling hills in many hues of green crisscrossed with low stone walls and outposts of whitewashed cottages huddled by rock strewn streams.
"The thing that's most important about being there (Ireland) is to know the feel of the wind, the temperature, the nuances of cool colors against warm, the movement of the clouds and light, the spongy quality of the ground, the sight of the sheep chewing and of their wool caught on the nettles and grass. These are the details that attach to my heart, that make the work so personal and its outcome so much more than just a picture."

He returned to America compelled by an urgent need to express and share the hundreds of subjects he had seen.

Edmund realized that he was forging new territory, both in the tradition of oil painting in Ireland and in plein-air painting. He found himself creating a new genre with a previously untapped audience. Deeply committed to his mission, he was driven to bring his visions of Ireland directly to the people. Edmund needed to find a new approach, not driven by gallery sales, but offering affordable art to the Irish and Irish American public. As featured in American Artist (November 1990), Edmund developed a direct mail business of limited edition prints, which few artists were doing at the time. His premise: to reach the "base of the pyramid", not only the traditional patrons of fine art.

From the time he picked up a brush in the early '60s, after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Edmund painted on location on the Maine coast. At the Art Students League in New York, he chose Arthur Maynard as his teacher because he painted the sea, to which Edmund was also deeply and emotionally drawn. From Maynard he learned of the effects of light, atmospheric conditions, time of day and the reflective qualities of ocean surfaces. And though painting in Ireland became an obsession of a magnitude he couldn't have imagined, Sullivan continues to frequent the cliff sides of southern Maine, endlessly challenged to paint the play of the breakers on the rockbound shore.

While his limited edition prints went out to primarily Irish and Irish American clients from his home base in Westchester, New York, and later Connecticut, Edmund painted in the studio but always on location, extending his range from New England’s mountains and rocky coastline all the way to Taos, New Mexico. Over the years, Sullivan visited and painted in the deserts and mountains and canyons of many western states. On all his driving trips, he chose Taos as his destination following in the footsteps of such giants in fine art as Joseph Sharp, Ernest Blumenschein, Oscar Berninghaus, Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, and others who discovered Taos in the early part of the 20th century and made it an art mecca for so many.

Later Edmund sought out other experts across America for further study: Michael Lynch, in Colorado, Ray Vinella, New Mexico, Len Chmiel, Colorado, David Leffel, New York, Susan Sarbach, California, and Charles Sovek, Connecticut.

As the years of productive and fulfilling work went by, Edmund entered a period of introspection, self-inquiry and study into the spiritual and philosophical inspiration of his work. Gradually a deep understanding of the universal principles of truth and beauty became inseparable from the expression of his art.

He connected again to the epiphany of his early career when, driven by the assault on his sense of justice, he met the Irish, and was affected by their forgiving attitude towards the oppressive forces that had held them captive. Rage had been transformed into a vision: to restore to the people of Ireland, far flung across the globe, their inheritance of beauty and celebration of their magical land. Reaching out to his fellow man through his painting, Edmund found the connection to his permanent spiritual home. A journey of truth, expressed in creativity. . .While his paintings may be the final product, Sullivan emphasizes that this is in fact only the medium through which he works to express truth, seen in a new way: a remembering of place and history, a personal relationship with a land, a people, a way of being.

Biography from Sunflower Fine Art Galleries, Mirrors, & Picture F:
Following is the obituary of the artist from the mortuary of Fred McGrath & Son, Bronxville, New York

Edmund J. Sullivan,  of Tuckahoe, NY, on the Feast of the Visitation, May 31, 2013, loving father of Edmund (Alyse) and Thomas (Daria), beloved brother of Timothy and Kathleen Keefe of Tuckahoe and loving uncle of 2 nieces and 5 nephews and one great nephew, Martin Keefe.  

He was a parishioner of Annunciation in Crestwood for many years where he was an active member of the  Charismatic Prayer Group.  After  joining the Marine Reserves,  he studied briefly at Fordham University and the Art Student’s League in NYC.  From his childhood, his extraordinary talent as an artist was recognized and encouraged by his family and teachers. He studied under the noted painter and illustrator, Alton Tobey, who encouraged him to pursue his passion full-time.

Initially, he began as a seascape painter along the coast of Maine until he traveled to Ireland in 1974 to visit his parents’ birthplaces in Kenmare, Kerry and Derry City. That trip became the impetus for his life’s work as the first American of Irish descent to spend his life painting and capturing the beauty of Ireland before it would be lost to our modern age. Edmund’s work,  exhibited in many galleries in the United States, won him recognition for his  unique ability to capture the haunting beauty of Ireland. 

As a result, his paintings have been featured in Irish movies and television as well as advertising campaigns and Irish cultural events where he  devoted himself to fundraising for worthwhile causes.  

During the last year of his life, he was blessed to enter more deeply into his Catholic faith and give glory to the Creator who was the source of his inspiration and talent and to Mary, whom he called, “My Queen and My Mother.” Funeral Mass at the Church of the Annunciation, Crestwood, at 10:00 am, Saturday, June 1st. Internment at Gate of Heaven in Valhalla. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Rosary Hill in Hawthorne, NY.

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