Born in London to Irish parents in 1928 , the playwright Sean O’Casey and actress Eileen Carey, Breon O’Casey had a bohemian childhood, which greatly inspired his artistic vision. The family moved to Devon, and O’Casey attended Dartington Hall school, a progressive education establishment, where the walls were lined with paintings by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, complete with a reclining Henry Moore sculpture in the grounds. From an early age O’Casey was determined to become an artist and spent his school days learning to paint and work with metal, including creating jewellery. Due to the way the school was structured, O’Casey left with no qualifications; “I took art too seriously to ever sit an exam” he later explained.
After studying at Art School in London (the Anglo-French Art Centre in St John’s Wood), O’Casey watched a TV documentary on the Cornish artist Alfred Wallis and his life in the fishing port of St Ives, as well as the contemporary art community working there. Immediately O’Casey moved there declaring “It was the place for me”. He began working as a studio assistant for the sculptor Denis Mitchell, then moving to become the same for Barbara Hepworth. Hepworth paid so little money that O’Casey was forced to work part time in the local telephone exchange to help support his then growing family. He later recalled he found great delight in being asked to smash Hepburn’s unwanted plaster sculptures with a sledgehammer.
Although known for his abstract work, in his early days in St Ives, O’Casey could be found selling his beautifully hand-worked jewellery to tourists and craft shops on the Quayside. This was a passion that had started in school, but he developed his own style of form making in decorative jewellery, after being inspired by the American artist Alexander Calder’s pieces which he had seen in a book. O’Casey also wove rugs, in the Navaho style. All his craft work and visual stimuli can be found in his abstract work - one can find the tribal patterns of his hand woven rugs, the cut out metal of his jewellery, the birds of Porthmeor beach next to his studio, the shapes, forms and colours of both the Cornish and Irish Celtic landscapes, all worked on the canvas in a windowless studio space.
As one of the last artists of the 20th century St Ives School to stand alongside Frost, Hepworth and Nicolson, The Art Hound Gallery is delighted to offer O’Casey’s unique limited edition prints that he produced in Cornwall.