Frank O’Meara, an artist known for his plein air (open air) painting, was a native of Carlow town, Ireland. For many years he was better known abroad for his work than he was in Ireland. However the sale of his painting ‘Reverie’ for £496,500 in 1999 at auction in London brought his work to the attention of a wider audience.
Francis Joseph O’Meara was born at 37 Dublin Street Carlow in 1853. He was the youngest of seven children whose father was a medical doctor. O’Meara was educated locally in Carlow town. He moved to Dublin at the age of 18, it is thought, to study medicine. However, he had been interested in art from a young age and began to attend art classes shortly after he moved to Dublin. He moved to Paris at the age of 20 to study art at the invitation of his relative the novelist Kathleen O’Meara. She wrote under the pen name Grace Ramsay. Her grandfather Dr Barry O’Meara (1786-1836) was Napoleon’s personal physician when he was exiled to St Helena.
Frank O’Meara studied at the Atelier of the French painter Carolus-Duran. He visited the artist colonies of Barbizon and Grez-sur-Loing in the forest of Fontainebleau. He was a contemporary of Irish artist John Lavery and the American artist John Singer Sargent. O Meara lived at Grez-sur-Loing for over twelve years. Many of the scenes he painted reflect the landscape in which he was living. However, some say that his work does contain images which could be related to the river Barrow in his native Carlow.
During his lifetime O Meara was better known in France, England and Scotland, where his paintings were included in exhibitions, than he was in Ireland. However he did exhibit once in Dublin at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1879. Today paintings by O’Meara hang in places like the Ulster Museum in Belfast and the Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. His masterpiece ‘Towards the Night and Winter’, can be seen at the Hugh Lane Gallery.
In 1888 O’Meara returned to Carlow. He was suffering from malaria fever. He died in the family home on Dublin Street on October 15th 1888. He was just 35 years old. His death notice which was published in the Carlow Sentinel stated that ‘he died of malarial fever, contracted whilst living in France’. He is buried in the family grave in Bennekerry, 5km outside Carlow town.
Frank O’Meara was born in Carlow in the year 1853 On This Day.
Reverie, Frank O’Meara
Dublin Street, Carlow