George Campbell and the Belfast Boys
Fine art auctioneers Adam's will bring the largest free showcase of public and private artworks by George Campbell to the Ava Gallery, from August 6 to September 3.
At the time of his death in 1979, George Campbell was probably the best known Irish artist to the general public, due to his many radio and television appearances on both RTE and BBC, as well as numerous newspaper profiles. However, in the decades since his death, he has been all but forgotten and neglected by the small group of art critics and writers who have influenced public opinion during this period.
In the years immediately after the Second World War, George Campbell and this group of mainly self-taught artists, who formed the 'Belfast Boys', burst onto the Irish art scene. At that time they dominated the recently formed Irish Exhibitions of Living Art, and were all represented by the Victor Waddington Galleries until its closure in the late 1950s. However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s, the group was no longer seen as avant-garde enough by the critics and thus since their early deaths in the 1970s they have drifted out of the public consciousness.
Despite the fact that Campbell was more or less ignored in his later years in Ireland, the opposite was true in his adopted country of Spain, where he annually lived for six months of the year. In 1978, the Spanish Government made Campbell a Knight Commander of Spain, the equivalent of a British Knighthood. In 2002, a George Campbell retrospective was held in Malaga, who even have named a roundabout after him, and in 2006 he was highlighted in the city’s bid for European City of Culture.
Although there was a retrospective of his works in Drogheda in 1992 there has been no major exhibition of the artist’s work in Dublin or in Northern Ireland since that time. Adam’s hope to rectify that by hosting the biggest exhibition ever staged of his work, which will also include sections devoted to his fellow 'Belfast Boys'. They include Gerard Dillon, who was shown at Adam’s two years ago, as well as Daniel O’Neill and Arthur Armstrong (both of whom, like Campbell, have never been honoured with a retrospectives since their deaths) and smaller displays of work by artists such as Colin Middleton, James MacIntyre and John Turner.
Now in their sixth year, Adam’s summer loan shows have become a fixture on the visual Irish art calendar. For the last two years, the exhibitions have opened in Dublin before travelling north to the Ava Gallery where they form part of the Clandeboye Classical Music Festival with Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland. These exhibitions are unique in the fact that all 100+ works have been borrowed from private collections, bringing many of these paintings into public view for the first time in 40 or 50 years.
The show is being curated by Karen Reihill and will be accompanied by an extensive 160 page catalogue detailing the life and works of this talented group of painters, led by George Campbell. Adam's hopes that this will put Campbell’s work in context and help lead to a re-assessment both of his work and that of the 'Belfast Boys' by a new generation of art critics, students and enthusiasts.