'Breon O’Casey is a man for all seasons. He thinks and feels with his hands and moves with apparent ease from two-dimensional to three-dimensional activities, from one medium to another, without losing the artistic integrity of his intent. Breon O’Casey’s sensitive observations of life, art and nature inform his rich personal, visual language and beautifully balanced prose. His respect for his immediate environment and for tradition have enabled him to move forward with a confident, quiet ease, creating a refreshingly honest approach to art. He is an artist who is prepared to wait for the right shape, for the right brushstroke or the perfectly chosen word to express his meaning’.
-Peter Murray 1
Breon O’Casey was a true polymath and was possibly unique in the combination of skills he possessed over so many mediums in a single career. He was a painter, printmaker, weaver, sculptor and jewellery maker and it is hard to think of any other contemporary artist and maker who was so broadly talented.
Son of the playwright Sean O’Casey (1880-1964), Breon spent most of his career in Cornwall, where he was closely associated with many of the painters, potters and sculptors of the St Ives movement. He arrived in the coastal town in the 1959 and served artistic apprenticeships under sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Denis Mitchell, and was friends with leading artists such as Peter Lanyon, John Wells and Tony O’Malley.
In 1999 O’Casey recalled: ‘One day, watching television, some time in the late fifties, I saw a film about Alfred Wallis…the film incidentally showed St Ives and the studios of the artists living there. I realised it was the place for me. I owned a small orange Ford van. I packed the van and went. St Ives! In those days it was still a working fishing port, with tourism and artists tolerated, but kindly tolerated. Coming from Torquay, where I had felt like a rhinoceros walking along the streets, the relief of mingling with other crazy artists was enormous…I felt secure and there was a sort of electricity in the air.’ 2
O’Casey’s abstract style was poetic and focussed on discovering the simplicity of objects and forms. For him there was ‘nothing new under the sun, but an infinity of arrangements’ and when asked about objects that captivated him it was ‘not the wood, not the tree, but the leaf; not the distant view, but the hedge; not the mountain, but the stone’. He would return to geometric motifs and natural forms again and again throughout his career and considered himself a ‘traditional innovator’, fascinated by ancient, primitive and non-western art, but imbuing it with his own poetic sensibilities and discoveries through all the creative channels he explored.
Although often overshadowed by his St Ives contemporaries, O’Casey’s legacy, talents and unique skills are now being reassessed, and greater importance given to his accomplishments beyond narrow and interlocked art circles. We are delighted to bring this collection of his work together to showcase many of the aspects of O’Casey’s prodigious artistic output, and to celebrate his significance as a true renaissance figure of British 20th-century art and craft.
Lyon & Turnbull are delighted to offer several auctions a year across the UK featuring to Modern British painting, sculpture, prints and drawings - including MODERN MADE in London. These Modern British art auctions feature works from the likes of Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group to Terry Frost and the St Ives School, we also handle selected works by all of 20th century Europe’s major figures and movements.
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SIMON HUCKER | SENIOR SPECIALIST
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ALICE STRANG | SENIOR SPECIALIST
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