Exhibition 14 March to 26 April 2009
In sixty years of painting Barrie Cooke has made over twenty-five portraits of poets, writers and artists, all of whom are his friends. They make an illustrious gathering of cultural icons and include poets Seamus Heaney, John Montague, Ted Hughes, Núala Ní Dhómhnaill and Leland Bardwell; writers, John McGahern and Dermot Healy; artists, Dorothy Cross, Camille Souter and Nick Miller. These portraits have never before been exhibited together.
Cooke approaches the portrait as if it were a landscape – a bog to penetrate, a river to dive into. He embraces the rigour demanded of painting portraits, a tradition he has favoured throughout his career, averaging about two a year. All his portraits are from life. The time spent working on a portrait can differ greatly and can take anything from two to twenty sittings, as was the case with the exceptional painting of John McGahern.
Cooke has had long associations with the Butler Gallery since the 1970s where he served on the board for over twenty years. During his tenure, he encouraged many artists of international repute to exhibit in the catacombs of Kilkenny castle and was integral to the establishment and growth of the Butler’s important Permanent Collection. The Butler Gallery is delighted to welcome Barrie Cooke back to Kilkenny to celebrate this important body of work.
In 2009, Kilkenny celebrates its 400th year as a city. In honour of this occasion, a full-colour catalogue will accompany this exhibition, which is gratefully sponsored by the Kilkenny 400 Committee and the Kilkenny Borough Council.