Hughie O’Donoghue was born in Manchester in 1953. His mother was Irish and he spent much of his childhood in Co. Mayo. The stark Irish scenery with its accompanying sense of tragedy, derived from the days of The Great Famine, found later expression in O’Donoghue’s art.
Considered one of the leading painters of his generation, his paintings frequently combine rich, expressionist colours and textures, verging on the abstract, when addressing a particular event or history upon which he has chosen to meditate or elaborate. These may be combined with, or over-layer, historic photographic or documentary sources – often with some notable personal significance or resonance - which provide the starting point for a cycle of works. Thus many of his solo exhibitions, whether in museums or galleries, have been centred on such cycles. O’Donoghue studied at Goldsmiths College and upon graduation he became, artist-in-residence at London’s National Gallery. O’Donoghue’s work is concerned with history as memory. His father’s experiences throughout WW2 became a starting point for a prodigious consideration of that period through the medium of richly surfaced paint. He once explained that, in contrast to Lucian Freud’s deliberate decision to avoid ‘the tyranny of the past’ and paint in the now, he consciously wants to look behind himself. He has said “I’m looking at [such a] series of experiences over time”. His painterly skills, together with his research into his subjects, has enabled him to produce a highly acclaimed body of work, several prestigious awards and a distinguished reputation, not least for his masterful expression of human suffering.
O’Donoghue was elected as a member of the Royal Academy in 2009. He is in major private and public collections nationally and internationally including the British Museum; Trinity College, Dublin; The Irish Museum of Modern Art: Gemeentemuseum; Art Gallery of South Australia: Arts Council of Great Britain: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery: Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin: The Imperial War Museum, London: The National Gallery, London: University of Michigan Museum of Art. In 2013 O’Donoghue was selected to design windows for the Henry VII, Lady Chapel, at Westminster Abbey. He lives and works in London and Ireland.