Exhibition: Mick O’Dea – What is the stars?
Exhibition: Mick O’Dea – What is the stars?

Mick O'Dea, Curtain Call, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

This exhibition marks a ground-breaking collaboration between Mick O’Dea and the Druid Theatre Company where the artist has sketched and painted the actors and crew in rehearsal for the O’Casey Trilogy.

The Molesworth Gallery are publishing a book to coincide with the show. The introduction by Druid creative director, Garry Hynes, can be read below.


What is the stars?

   “I have known of Mick O’Dea and his extraordinary work for many years. In fact, one of my most treasured possessions is a Mick O’Dea painting which I received from my wife on the occasion of a special birthday.

Druid O’Casey as a project has been something that I’ve dreamed about for a very long time. As I planned and researched for this monumental undertaking, Mick’s paintings and sculptures of the revolutionary period (Black and Tan, Trouble, The Split, The Foggy Dew) loomed large in my imagination and played a significant role in my visualisations of this production.

In his writing of the Dublin Trilogy (Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars and The Shadow of a Gunman)  Sean O’Casey gave this country a wonderful gift. His pen captured these singular historical events for generations of people to experience in the theatres of this country.

With his paintbrush, Mick O’Dea has also gifted us with invaluable works of art that help us to understand these momentous events and appreciate the people who lived them – both at the barricade and in the tenement building.

In his studies of the Rising, War of Independence and Civil War, Mick is a painter of performance, a painter of theatrical events: of men and women performing roles, dressed in elaborate costumes, playing parts in a great production. Bringing this skill and insight to bear on our theatrical production is a huge privilege for Druid. To see our work represented on his canvas is the gift of a lifetime.

As well as representing the onstage world that audiences see from their seats, Mick has captured the world of the rehearsal room, with its well-thumbed scripts and coffee cups, and the magic of backstage, full of actors awaiting their cues and stage managers preparing for the next scene change.

As well as being our artist-in-residence and producing this incredible series of paintings, Mick also graciously allowed us to use one of his existing paintings (Attention from the 2012 exhibition, Trouble) as the promotional image for DruidO’Casey. This painting is based on a photograph by Jack Leonard of a group of young boys playacting as soldiers – the perfect representation of these three Sean O’Casey plays.

It is an honour for us to include Mick O’Dea in the story of DruidO’Casey: to welcome an artist of his standing into our theatrical family and to now have this collection of paintings which not only celebrates our production but Irish theatre in general, and the people that give life to the great stories of our nation.”

Garry Hynes, March, 2024


Mick O’Dea

   Mick O’Dea was born in Ennis, Co Clare, in 1958. He studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the Winchester School of Art in Barcelona and Winchester, where he was awarded a Masters in European Fine Art. He lectured at NCAD for 16 years and has acted as an external assessor and lecturer in art colleges and universities in the USA, the UK and Ireland.

The recipient of many awards, his most recent include The Ireland US Council / Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award in Dublin and The Royal Ulster Academy Portrait Prize in Belfast. O’Dea was elected ARHA in 1993, RHA in 1996 and President of the RHA in 2014. He was elected to Aosdána in 1996 and elected as a fellow of the Anatomical Society in 2015 for his contribution to reviving anatomy as a subject for artists at the RHA School, where he was appointed principal in 2006. O’Dea is also an honorary member of The Royal Scottish    Academy, a board member of The Ballinglen Arts Foundation and vice-president of the Trinity College Historical Society. He has served as a board member of the National Gallery of Ireland, acting as chairperson of the Acquisitions and Exhibition Committee from 2014 to 2018. He is chairperson of the Stamp Design Advisory Committee and a member of the Philatelic Advisory Committee of An Post.

O’Dea has had numerous solo exhibitions and has participated in a wide range of artist residencies in Ireland, the USA, across Europe and, most recently, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in a collaroration with the Irish embassy there. He continues his practice as an artist in Dublin, Mayo and wherever else his work may take him.

At the Molesworth Gallery
Starts: 19th April 2024 at
Ends: 15th May 2024
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