Born in Dublin in 1936, Brian Bourke studied briefly at the National College of Art in Dublin and St. Martin’s School of Art in London. He represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale and the Lugano Exhibition of Graphics, both in 1965.
He won the Arts Council portrait competition in 1965, the Munster and Leinster Bank competition in 1966 and first prize in the Irish Exhibition of Living Art competition in 1967. In 1985, he was named Sunday Independent Artist of the Year, and he received the O’Malley Award from the Irish-American Cultural Institute in 1993.
His work has been exhibited across Ireland, in Switzerland, England, France, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. and has exhibited in many major group shows. He had regular solo exhibitions in Dawson Gallery, Dublin, from 1965 to 1975 and Taylor Galleries, Dublin, from 1978, the most recent being June 2019. In 1991 he was artist-in residence at the Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festival in Dublin with accompanying works exhibited in the Douglas Hyde Gallery.
In 1988 he had a major retrospective exhibition, Brian Bourke- Twenty Five Years, in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and Galway Arts Festival. In 1998, the R.H.A. held a retrospective exhibition of his work and in 2010 he brought out a book entitled Brian Bourke- Five Decades, which was accompanied by a major retrospective show in Galway Arts Festival. His latest book ,entitled Agonbyte of Inwit, was published in 2019.
The subjects of his work over the years includes self portraits and self in landscapes; works from a life mask of William Blake with sunflowers, inspired by Blake’s poem “Ah Sunflower!”; a long series of Buile Suibhne which was shown in ROSC in 1988, and another series of paintings of Don Quixote.
He has worked in various other media apart from oil on canvas, such as etching, lithography and sculpture- bronze casting and woodcarving.