Michael Byrne Biography

Michael Byrne




Painter and printmaker Michael Byrne was born September 30, 1923, in Dublin, Ireland, one of ten children of Michael Byrne and Mary Byrne (née Sloane). He worked at first with a photographer, then as a dental technician, before studying at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin (1944–'45). He would subsequently become a part-time lecturer there (1971 - 1979), as well as at King Alfred's College, Winchester.

Byrne showed works at major exhibitions in Ireland, including the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (1953) and the RHA (1958, 1973), and was a founder (1960), committee member, and frequent exhibitor of the Independent Artists. In Dublin he exhibited at the Project Arts Centre (1968–71), of which he was a committee member; at the Setanta Gallery (1974, 1976, 1981); and at the Davis Gallery (1982). One-man shows were held in Dublin; at the Inglewood Library Gallery, Los Angeles (1966); and at the Tara Gallery, Zürich (1981).

Initially painting Dublin scenes and subjects, he progressed to abstracts, particularly squares, in oils and watercolours in the tradition of Mondriaan and Albers; later he concentrated on small silkscreens, which were subtle in colour and of great delicacy. A founder (1981) and director for several years of the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin, he taught screenprinting and published limited editions of lithographs and silkscreens. He showed little interest in promoting his career, though his paintings and prints are held in public and private collections throughout the world, including the collections of the Arts Council of Ireland (where he is represented by two works in acrylic, ‘Yellow square’ and ‘Blue and violet squares’ and by seven screenprints), CIE, the Irish embassies in Switzerland and Kenya, and the Oregon Gallery of Modern Art, USA. He was elected to Aosdána (1981). Although Aosdana 1993 states that he was employed by the Arts Council, he appears never to have been a regular member of its staff.

Totally committed to art, Byrne encouraged younger artists, worked selflessly on committees, and was respected as an artist and as a teacher. He travelled widely, visiting major exhibitions and galleries and attending concerts, and was highly knowledgeable about painters and painting. Gentle, sensitive, and a very private person with a gift for friendship, he never married and died suddenly 25 January 1989 at his home, Offaly Rd, Cabra, Dublin, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. A commemorative exhibition was held in the Davis Gallery (1990), and the proceeds from sales and his estate finance the biennial Michael Byrne Award for Printmakers.

Source: Dictionary of Irish Biography, Helen Andrews