Image: BBC Private Passions: Sean Scully
Featured on BBC Radio 3

BBC Private Passions: Sean Scully

March 14, 2021

Dublin-born artist Sean Scully is known worldwide for his abstract paintings of blocks and stripes of bold colour. You can see his work in the Tate, the Guggenheim, and the National Gallery of Ireland, among many other prestigious collections. He was brought up in what he describes as “abject poverty” and his paintings now fetch more than a million pounds; he and his wife and son fly back and forth between two homes, one south of Munich and one in New York.

In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Sean looks back at his post-war childhood. His Irish father was a deserter and the family was on the run, often living with travellers. Once they moved to London, his mother earned a living as a vaudeville singer; she had an act with the transvestite performer next door. Sean worked as a builder’s labourer but discovered art through going to church with his Catholic grandmother. The stained-glass windows made an unforgettable impression. He went to night school, determined to be an artist, but was rejected by eleven art schools. He discusses the toughness needed to become an artist, especially in “brutal” New York. He admits that his restlessness now – constantly moving around the world, and buying up property – is a legacy from his traveller childhood. And he reveals the power music has over him when he’s painting.

Music choices include Brahms’ Cello Sonata No 1' Schubert’s String Quintet; Kodály’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello; Beethoven’s "Pastoral" Symphony; and Bartok’s First String Quartet.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

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