Artist Biographies

Maurice MacGonigal PRHA 1900 - 1979

Maurice MacGonigal was born in Dublin in 1900, and encouraged by his cousin Harry Clarke, did an apprenticeship in ecclesiastical decoration & stained glass. In 1917, he joined Na Fianna Eireann, subsequently being interned, first in Kilmainham Gaol for a period of one year, until his release in 1921. He attended evening classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. The Taylor Scholarship was among various awards and medals which he won in the 1920’s, and he began teaching in the Royal Hibernian Schools and at the Metropolitan School of Art. He first exhibited at the RHA in 1924, and every year thereafter until 1978. He became a full member in 1933, Keeper of the Academy in the late 1930’s, later Treasurer and finally President of the RHA from 1962 until 1977. In the manner of Sean Keating, MacGonigal painted life in the west of Ireland, in Connemara, Aran and Achill. MacGonigal was also involved in stage design and book illustration. He had earlier received a commission to design a set for the Hospitals’ Trust Sweep and he was assisted in this regard by Harry Kernoff. He became associate Professor of Painting at the National College of Art in 1937, and Professor from 1954 until 1969. He had earlier been commissioned to paint a mural for the New York World Fair of 1939 and was again assisted by Harry Kernoff and Micheal de Burca. In 1944, he held a one man show at the Victor Waddington Galleries in Dublin, while also exhibiting at the Oireachtas exhibition in Dublin, the Living Irish Art exhibition in London, the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery Dublin (1958) and the Dawson Gallery (1968). In 1969, he strongly criticised the Government on its tax free concession to artists, as he felt it would fill the country with ‘the art parasites of Europe’. He was conferred with an honorary degree by UCD in 1970 and continued to exhibit at the Dawson Gallery and later at the Taylor Galleries. He became a member of the Watercolour Society of Ireland in 1972 and was a member of the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland. His last one man show took place at the Taylor Galleries a few months before his death in 1979 and he is buried in Gurteen Cemetery in Roundstone. MacGonigal felt there was ‘nothing worse than living surrounded by one’s own paintings … they crowd you in … when a picture is finished, I like to get rid of it’. His work is included in major public collections throughout the country and he was certainly one of the most outstanding Irish artists of the 20th Century.
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