Desmond Carrick

(18/12/1928 - 30/09/2012)

Desmond Carrick RHA 1928 – 2012. Desmond Carrick, who died on 30th September 2012, was a man of many talents. Quiet and unassuming, he had excellent drawing skills and painted exquisitely in both watercolours and oils. He also produced a number of figurative sculptures as well as experimenting with the stained glass media. In addition, he was a combination of philosopher, manager and administrator.

As a philosopher he could debate and discuss a wide range of topics with those brave enough to engage with him. In that role he was superb at debating and influencing others with a disarming sense of humour. He was also a kindly and energetic teacher to those who sought his guidance, which he gave generously and with endless patience.

As a manager, he brought a forensic skill to the task. This is evident in how he oversaw the building of his magnificent home which he designed and had constructed at Killakee in the Dublin Mountains in the late 1950s. His skills were also recognised in the Guinness Brewery, where he worked from 1945 to 1977, and where the Guinness directors became aware of his skills both as an artist and as a manager.

The administrative skills of Desmond Carrick became well-known to the RHA in the late 1970s, when, having been elected a full member in 1968, he took on the role of Secretary at a significant time in the history of the Academy. He was to the fore in the transformation of the site from the old RHA house in Ely Place to the present modern building. In parallel with this, he used his boundless energy to deal with the extensive administrative affairs of the Academy, including all the work that went with the annual exhibition. His skills were further evident in his management of the various committees and sub-committees dealing with candidates for election to the various grades of membership.

Desmond Carrick was born in Dublin in 1928 to Kathleen and Harry Carrick. Harry was a Supervisor in the Guinness Brewery, so it was assumed that Des would also enter the hallowed halls and vathouses of the brewery. True to form, he joined the company in 1945 where he was assigned to the Quality Control laboratory. However, when Guinness wanted him to attend evening classes in science at the company’s expense Des declined and, showing early signs of independence, opted to attend classes in the National College of Art at his own expense instead.

Soon, his watercolours came to the attention of Guinness director, Lord Moyne, who became the first purchaser of a Des Carrick picture. Later, the directors commissioned him to paint a huge mural, covering the four walls of the Visitors’ Centre, depicting the entire brewing process from barley growing in the fields to the Guinness ships carrying the lionn dubh dubalta to foreign shores.

Meanwhile, as he attended the National College of Art from 1946 onwards his talent and energy came to the attention of his two tutors, Sean Keating RHA (1889 – 1977) and Maurice MacGonigal RHA. (1900 – 1979). The influence of Keating on his style is evident in the painting “The Rescue” which won him the Taylor Scholarship in 1956. This scholarship enabled him to travel to Spain, where he was greatly influenced by the light and colour of the Spanish landscapes.

From that time onwards, his commitment and versatility became evident in the huge volume of works, both in watercolours and oils which he produced on weekend visits around the Dublin area in the company of a group of fellow-artists, and in the West of Ireland both alone and with his friend and fellow painter James Nolan RHA. His preoccupation with the combination of light on water is evident in a large number of his works.

This effect of light on water was to result in many fine examples of work made in Cornwall, Spain and France, all the while developing his own vision and means of expression. As a result, a Carrick landscape, regardless of location, is easily recognisable. He was especially proud of his landscapes painted in the same region of France as Claude Monet. (1840 – 1926). A visit to New Zealand in 2000 to visit his brothers resulted in a number of visually exciting watercolours which showed a return to his original style of spontaneous technique of fifty years before.

In 1965 he produced a series of stained-glass pieces on religious themes. With deep strong colours and a compassionate vibrancy they draw the eye to the theme with immediate effect. He has donated these works to the Augustinian Fathers in his local parish of Ballyboden, where they are planned to be part of a redesigned sanctuary area.

From about 2005 his health began to deteriorate, but he continued to produce a small number of works. In 2009, to mark his 80 th birthday, a book tribute to his life’s work, or festschrift, was produced. This aimed to give an overview of his life’s journey as a painter, and contained many fine reproductions of his works, along with essays by a range of distinguished colleagues and friends, and was entitled “The Lie of the Land”. (Gandon Editions 2009).

His wife, Deirdre (Mellett), whom he married in 1967 was a continuous source of support and encouragement to him, and a hostess par excellence. She predeceased him in 2010. He is survived by his sister, Valerie and brothers Harry and Aidan.

1928 Born in Dublin
1945 Joined Guinness Brewery
1946 Began night classes at the National College of Art, Dublin
1951 First exhibited with the Royal Hibernian Academy
1956 Awarded Taylor Scholarship by the Royal Dublin Society  Commissioned to paint large-scale murals in Guinness Brewery visitors’ centre
1958 First exhibited with the Irish Exhibition of Living Art
1959 Began teaching at the National College of Art, Dublin
1965 Elected Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy
1967 Married Deirdre Mellett
1968 Elected full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy
1969 Retired from Guinness Brewery
1970-81 Secretary of the Royal Hibernian Academy
2009 Made a Freeman of Russy-Bemont, France

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2009 Desmond Carrick — The Lie of the Land, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin
1992 James Gallery, Dalkey, co Dublin (also 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991)
1991 Carroll Gallery, Longford
1989 Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. The Mall Gallery, Thurles.
1982 Impressions Of Dun Laoghaire, Robinson Gallery, Dublin
1963 Ritchie Hendriks Gallery, Dublin (also 1953, 1954, 1959, 1962)
1954 Dublin Painters’ Gallery, Dublin (also 1953)

Selected Biographies
2009 Desmond Carrick — The Lie Of the Land, ed. Tony Corcoran, with essays Anne-Marie Keaveney, Ciarån MacGonigaI, Patrick J Murphy, Eimear O’Connor (Gandon Editions, Kinsale)
1990 The Irish Figurists and Figurative Painting in Irish Art by Susan Stairs (George Gallery Montague, Dublin)
1989 National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland — vol. I, 1979-1989, ed. Sarah Finlay (University of Limerick / Gandon Editions, Kinsale)

– Contributed by Tony Corcoran. Written: November 2012.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Watercolour and oils artist who was born and lived in 77 Old County Road