Sean Scully

Biography of Sean Scully

American-Irish artist Sean Scully is recognized worldwide for his geometric, non-representational works. He is renowned for utilizing a recurring motif of colored stripes and squares and for his fusion of modern abstraction with a metaphorical spirituality. Grid-like, his canvases are suggestive of giant chess boards and have textured surfaces that are comprised of thick layers of oil paint.


Sean Scully was born in 1945 in Dublin but grew up in London. He moved to the United States in the early 1970s to study at Harvard University and later settled in New York, gaining his American citizenship in 1983. His abstract works resist the figurative but often draw inspiration from architecture or specific memories of places and objects, particularly the landscapes of the three countries where he has lived and worked throughout his life. During the 1970s his practice could be characterized by an overlay of geometric forms in various media. By the 1980s his work had taken on a more expressive edge, mixing brushstrokes with textured surfaces. Usually Sean Scully has very little idea how his paintings are going to turn out, as he explains himself, “I am not in control of it.”


Sean Scully took an apprenticeship at a commercial printing shop in London before joining a graphic design studio. This experience has stayed with him, and he takes great care to achieve his beautifully crafted editions and multiples. He has never had to look far for critical attention and has been shortlisted twice for the prestigious Turner Prize. His work is held in over 180 public collections worldwide including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all in New York. In 2013 Sean Scully was elected a Royal Academician and in 2015 was honored with a large exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland. A prolific traveler, Sean Scully divides his time between New York, Munich, and Barcelona.

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