Visual Arts

Cecil King

Cecil King (1921 – 1986)

Cecil King  was born 1921 in Rathdrum, County Wicklow.   His early education was at Mountjoy School a boarding school in Dublin (now Newtown Park Comprehensive).  He entered the printing business in Dundalk, County Louth and then in Dublin.  He was a very active member of An Oige and served as Hon. National Treasurer and Hon National Secretary.  This also enabled him to travel widely and  visit major galleries and museums internationally.

He purchased his first painting by Eric Patton in 1953 and collected all his life. As a result of his first purchase he became interested in the technique and started to explore further in the studio of Neville Johnson.  This started what was to become his lifetime work.  He left business in 1963 to paint full-time.

His early paintings are expressionist in style. He had a great interest in the circus and many of his works explored the tension of the trapeze developing the line through to the linear abstract style that is the hallmark of his work.

Editions Alecto, London published the ‘Berlin Suite’ by Cecil King, a suite of six screenprints.  Editions Monika Beck, Germany published ‘Glanmore Sonnets’ by Seamus Heaney with pastels by Cecil King in 1977 and ‘Four Poems’ by Micheal O’Siadhail  with four oil paintings by Cecil King in 1984.

He had his first exhibition at the  Hendriks Gallery, Dublin in 1959 and continued until the death of David Hendriks, when he showed in the gallery of his partner, Oliver Dowling in 1984.   He exhibited widely in Europe.  His work is in many public  collections internationally including the Hugh :Lane Dublin City Gallery,   Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Arts Council, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Crawford Gallery, Cork, Tate Gallery, London.

Cecil King played a huge part in the advancement and appreciation of contemporary art in Ireland. He was a founder member of Contemporary Irish Art Society in the early 60s and a founder member of ROSC  in 1967 which continued until 1988.

There was a retrospective exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin in 1981 curated by the then Director, Eithne Waldron.  In 2008 the Irish Museum of Modern Art presented an important exhibition titled ‘Cecil King – A Legacy of Painting’ curated by Sean Kissane, together with a publication.  In 2021 The Hugh Lane  Gallery commemorated the centenary of his birth  with an exhibition  of his work from the gallery collection titled ‘Cecil King – Present in Time Future’ curated by Logan Sisley.

Cecil King was an original member of Aosdána.  He died in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin on 7th April 1986.

Back to former members