James Power

Artist’s work made an im­pres­sion on all of us, writes Dara O Conaola

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Obituaries -

JAMES Power ded­i­cated his life to art. A painter and a sculp­tor, he com­pleted many im­por­tant pub­lic sculp­tures, such as the 1916 Memo­rial on Sars­field Bridge in Lim­er­ick, the statue of Fr Eu­gene O Growney in Rath­boy, Co Meath, and the statue of Matt Tal­bot on the Matt Tal­bot Bridge, Dublin. James did the death mask of Bren­dan Be­han and mod­elled many fine por­traits, among them Peadar Kear­ney, au­thor of the Ir­ish na­tional an­them, a por­trait of Ersk­ine Childers, Pres­i­dent of Ire­land, and a por­trait bust of Ir­ish lan­guage writer, Mairtin O Cad­hain.

He be­gan to learn sculp­ture at a very young age. His fa­ther, the mas­ter sculp­tor Al­bert Power RHA, was his first teacher. As a child, he was con­stantly by his fa­ther's side, help­ing and learn­ing. In his teens he at­tended the Na­tional Col­lege of Art and stud­ied sculp­ture un­der Oliver Shep­pard and paint­ing un­der Sean Keat­ing. At the col­lege he won a Tay­lor Art Schol­ar­ship. He was a reg­u­lar ex­hibitor at the an­nual RHA ex­hi­bi­tion and at the Oireach­tas Art Ex­hi­bi­tion down through the years.

Power's lat­est exhibit is an im­pres­sive por­trait bust in bronze of the late US Pres­i­dent JF Kennedy, cur­rently on view at Gal­way City Mu­seum. This very fine piece of sculp­ture con­sti­tutes a fo­cal point of an ex­hi­bi­tion to com­mem­o­rate JFK's visit to Gal­way City in 1963. It also con­sol­i­dates Power's con­nec­tion with Gal­way city, as his fa­ther was the sculp­tor re­spon­si­ble for the fa­mous statue of the writer Padraic O Con­aire, which is now on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Gal­way City Mu­seum.

Al­though the Kennedy por­trait was mod­elled by Power in 1963, the year of the pres­i­dent’s visit to Ire­land, it has never been on dis­play in bronze form un­til now.

James Power was born in Dublin, in 1918. Af­ter his aca­demic train­ing at the Na­tional Col­lege of Art, he joined his fa­ther and broth­ers in their fa­mous sculp­ture yard, which was lo­cated across the street from St Joseph’s Church, Berke­ley Road, Dublin.

From the Thir­ties to the Sev­en­ties, count­less chunks of gran­ite, lime­stone and mar­ble were seen arriving at the rail­ings of the Pow­ers’ sculp­ture yard and were in due course loaded on lor­ries as beau­ti­ful stat­ues and other works of art.

As a painter he ex­hib­ited some great por­traits of Dublin life, among them a study of Vin­nie Byrne, one of Michael Collins' clos­est as­so­ci­ates dur­ing the War of In­de­pen­dence.

He do­nated his work to peo­ple and so­ci­eties who in his opin­ion ap­pre­ci­ated it.

When I heard of his death, I was re­minded of an oc­ca­sion in the early Nineties when I had the hon­our of meet­ing him at his old fam­ily home in Dublin.

He in­vited me

in and showed me around the house, bring­ing me out to the back of it, pass­ing the back gar­den to the for­mer sculp­tor's stu­dio and then on to a stone-carv­ing area.

I met him many times since and, like all of us, his life changed as the years went by and I al­ways found him cor­dial and en­ter­tain­ing.

He was in his 90th year at the time of his death and was still the de­voted artist, the true Dubliner, and the lively con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist that he al­ways was.

JAMES POWER: A life ded­i­cated to art

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