Scully, Sean 1945–

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Scully, Sean 1945–


Born January 3, 1945, in Dublin, Ireland; immigrated to the United States, 1975; became U.S. citizen, 1983. Education: Attended Croydon College of Art, 1965-68, Newcastle University, 1968-72, and Harvard University, 1972-73.


Home— New York, NY.


Artist and photographer, 1968—. Taught at Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmiths's School of Art, London, England, 1973-75; taught at Princeton University, 1977-83; Joseph Beuys Lecturer, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, Oxford, England, 1994; part-time professor of painting, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, Germany, 2002—. Major exhibitions include "Sean Scully on Paper," Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 2000; "Sean Scully: New Photographs and Works on Paper," Galerie Lelong, New York, 2001; "Sean Scully: Wall of Light, Figures," Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, 2003; "Sean Scully," National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia, 2004; "Sean Scully: Prints 1983-2003," Irish Cultural Centre, Paris, France, 2004; "Sean Scully, le Centre de la Gravure et de l'image Imprimée," La Louviere, Belgium, 2005; "Sean Scully, Fotografías," Galeria Carles Taché, Barcelona, Spain, 2005; "Sean Scully: New Work," Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 2005; "Wall of Light," Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 2007; "The Prints of Sean Scully," Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, 2007.


Guggenheim fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Artists' Fellowship, both 1983; London Institute, honorary member, 1994; Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees, Massachusetts College of Art and National University of Ireland, both 2003; Sean Scully Room, a room dedicated to Sean Scully's work, opened at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland, 2006.


Sean Scully, Hudson Hills Press/Rizzoli International Publications (New York, NY), 1990.

Sean Scully, Jamileh Weber Gallery (Zürich, Swizerland), 1991.

Sean Scully, Waddington Galleries (London, England), 1992.

Sean Scully: The Catherine Paintings, Die Kunsthalle (Bielefeld, Germany), 1995.

Sean Scully, Twenty Years, 1976-1995, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1995.

Sean Scully: Works on Paper, 1975-1996, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München (Munich, Germany), 1996.

Sean Scully, Charta (Milan, Italy), 1996.

Sean Scully, Galerie nationale du jeu de paume (Paris, France), 1996.

Sean Scully: Gemälde, Pastelle, Aquarelle, Fotografien, Richter (Düsseldorf, Germany), 2001.

Sean Scully: Institut Valenciá D'Art Modern, 31 Enero-7 Abril 2002, Institut Valenciá d'Art Modern (Valencia, Spain), 2002.

Sean Scully, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 2004.

Sean Scully: Wall of Light, Rizzoli International Publications (New York, NY), 2005.

Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence: Selected Writings, Merrell (New York, NY), 2006.

Sean Scully, Cercle d'art (Paris, France), 2006.


Irish-born modern artist and photographer Sean Scully, according to a biography published on the Kerlin Gallery Web site, "is one of the most exhibited and highly esteemed abstract painters in the world." His work has been exhibited in galleries in many nations, including England, Scotland, the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. It has been celebrated for its accessibility as well as its spiritual serenity. "Scully," stated Genevieve Stuttaford in a review of Sean Scully published in Publishers Weekly, "has created his own complex universe, ranging from somber grid paintings to outpourings of extrovert energy." "I take it for granted I don't need to abstract reality anymore; that has already been done," Scully told R. Eric Davis in an interview published in the Journal of Contemporary Art. "That would be the equivalent of reinventing the wheel. What I am doing is using all the ground that has already been gained; I'm occupying it to try to make something that is more expressive and that relates to the world in which we live. In that sense my abstraction is quite figurative. It is not very remote."

Much of Scully's painting is based on lines—stripes feature prominently—and muted or pastel colors. But instead of creating a mechanical, dehumanized abstract world, the artist strives to evoke a world that is infused with human meaning. "My work … does not dialogue with some of the concerns of the other abstractionists," he said in his interview with Davis. "The whole point of painting is that it has the potential to be so humanistic, so expressive," he continued in his Journal of Contemporary Art interview. "To give that up is a tremendous mistake because then what you are doing is imitating forms of technological expression which can be manifested more directly, more efficiently, and frankly, more beautifully, in their original form. It's quite sad; artists, who are trying to, let's say, de-express the brushstroke. It is the opposite of what I am trying to do. I want my brushstrokes to be full of feeling; material feeling manifested in form and color."

Scully opposes philosophically the trend in modern art (represented by artists like Andy Warhol) to aestheticize the commercial aspects of modern life. Instead, he argues that truly great art comes from a very human need to connect with each other and, more importantly, with something that is larger than themselves. Although artists experiment with new tools derived from computer technology, they will come to realize that these things are only tools—the means to an end rather than an end in and of themselves. "I simply cannot think that human beings will be able to discard their desire and need for something that is sublime, something that transports them, takes them out of time, takes them out of the banality of the everyday world," he told Davis. "I just can't see it happening with the virtual, because to make something is tremendously powerful in and of itself. Even before we get to the point where we judge its value, the fact that someone has gone to all the trouble to make something is very moving."

"I think what we need is an extraordinary humanistic assertion made by individuals and that is our great necessity at this point in time," Scully concluded in his Journal of Contemporary Art interview. "The whole thing, as something that can be codified, as it was, let's say in the time of [twentieth-century American abstract art critic] Clement Greenburg, has become unraveled. The only thing that can put it back together again is extreme individual action," Scully told Davis. "That is why I am so comfortable in a time like this, because I am so much of an individualist. In a sense, it is my time. It's a perfect moment."



Art Journal, spring, 1992, Ann Lee Morgan, review of Sean Scully.

ARTnews, September, 2006, Peter Frank, review of Sean Scully, p. 148; December, 2006, Robert Ayers, review of Sean Scully, p. 144.

Arts Magazine, March, 1991, Meyer Raphael Rubinstein, review of Sean Scully, p. 111.

California Bookwatch, December 2006, review of Sean Scully.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2004, J. Simon, review of Sean Scully, p. 284; June, 2006, J.A. Nodine, review of Sean Scully: Wall of Light, p. 1816.

Publishers Weekly, November 2, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Sean Scully, p. 62.

Reference & Research Book News, May 2006, review of Sean Scully: Wall of Light.

Times Literary Supplement, January 19, 2007, Keith Miller, review of Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence: Selected Writings, p. 29.


ArtNet, (November 5, 2007), "Sean Scully Biography."

Journal of Contemporary Art Online, (November 5, 2007), R. Eric Davis, interview with Sean Scully.

Kerlin Gallery Web site, (November 5, 2007), "Sean Scully Wall of Aran 04 May-02 June 2007."