THE ‘STRANGE AND EXOTIC’ WORLD OF GAY IRISH ARTIST PATRICK HENNESSY

As part of a series on forgotten Modern Irish Masters, the IMMA introduces us to Patrick Hennessy.

As you might imagine given the Catholic Church’s social conservatism, the gay Irish painter Patrick Hennessy (1915—80) was both unique and fearless. He was “one of the Ireland’s most successful realist painters” after the Second World War, even if his more progressive works were – implicitly and explicitly – about homosexuality.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, contemporaneous society didn’t see – or chose to repress – the significance of Hennessy’s figures, which were often young and handsome men, isolated from their surroundings, marooned in their minds. 

As the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s notes tell us, Hennessy was exhibiting this work “[a]t a time when gay men were subject to social and legal persecution”. And as recent events in Orlando, Florida tell us, this time is still now. 

One of the best ways to experience Patrick Hennessy: De Profundis – the exhibition title is taken from one of Hennessy’s paintings which, in turn, took the name from a letter written by Oscar Wilde in prison – is at the IMMA’s Curator Lunchtime Talks. On 23 July at 13.15, you can meet in the main reception for a free guided tour of the exhibition by Sean Kissane, the curator. No booking is required.

To get to the IMMA from Generator Dublin, get the red line tram from Smithfield Luas Stop ten minutes to James’s and walk. 

Patrick Hennessy, Kassim by the Sea, 1978, Oil on canvas, 62.2 x 87.6 cm, Private Collection. Image courtesy of Whytes © The Artist’s Estate.