Signed Patrick Pye, ’75 Purchased
Patrick Pye came to Ireland from Winchester when he was three years old. He was taught art by the sculptor Oisín Kelly at St. Columba’s, Rathfarnham and later studied at the NCA and stained-glass under Albert Troost in Holland. He converted to Catholicism in his thirties, and thereafter, his work was deeply imbued with religious spirituality, although he was well aware of contradictory behaviours within the Church. Following the death of Evie Hone (1894–55), Pye inherited her position as the country’s leading artist of religious stained-glass subjects. Unlike Hone, however, he was not influenced by French Cubism. Instead he looked back to the Early Renaissance and Mannerism in Italy and to the work of El Greco in sixteenth-century Spain, attracted by their non-naturalist forms of expression and their strong religious feeling. He expounded his views on art in a book on El Greco (The Time Gatherer, El Greco and the Sacred Theme, Dublin 1991), and particularly condemned what he considered a fetish of technique, seeing it as a diminution of humanity, spontaneity and feeling. He was a founder member of Aosdána in 1981, but was the centre of controversy in 2017 when he admitted that his failing sight prevented him from working. The stipend paid to Aosdána members to top up their earnings was withdrawn but restored following condemnation by fellow artists and the public. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the RHA in 1997.Patrick Pye took up print-making quite late in his career, seeing the medium as a reminder of mortality, of the human need to be remembered by a trace or print. While his prints, too, tended to have a religious theme, they also portrayed landscapes and still-life subjects. Piperstown, Bohernabreena at the edge of the Dublin mountains was the artist’s home for many years. Although it’s a much loved and familiar landscape, Pye has simplified the forms of the masses of light and dark and reduced all of the landscape elements of mountains, slopes, hedges and trees to almost symbolic references in order to capture what is, for him, the spiritual essence of this place. Patrick Pye said that he loved print because of the richness of tones the medium could achieve. ‘Essentially etching is a tonal exercise, but has a resonance of texture that is often equivalent to colour (Pye to McAvera, 2009, p. 75).