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 Michael Edward O'Brien  (1854 - 1936)

About: Michael Edward O'Brien


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Lived/Active: Colorado/Ohio      Known for: plein-air landscape and mystic figure painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Ohio, Michael O’Brien worked as a hod carrier in Colorado until age 74, and then became a full time artist until his death at 82.  He commented that he had “been everything from a newsboy during the Civil War to a performer in a one-night stand circus.  I worked in the steel mills in Chicago and I stoked ships on the Atlantic.  But all the time I wanted to paint.”  He was entirely self-taught and understood almost no art vocabulary terms, but he was hailed as “painting his philosophy of life and of Irish mysticism.”

He’s was honored as the Outstanding Artist of the Year in 1935 by the Denver Artists Guild.  He had been a founder of the Guild (later the Colorado Artists Guild) in 1929.  He exhibited regularly with the Guild in the Annual Exhibitions of the Denver Art Museum in the late 20’s and early 30’s.  Ann Evans, one of the Denver Art Museum founders, sponsored a one-man retrospective and sale of his works at the Denver Art Museum in 1936 to help his impoverished widow.

Submitted by Deborah Wadsworth, curator of “Denver Artists Guild Founders – Fifty-Two Originals” show at Denver Public Library, 2009

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