Star athlete and talented artist whose paintings were notably displayed in many movies
Patrick Morrison: November 16th, 1945-December 20th, 2013
Patrick Morrison, who has died aged 68, was born in Cork into an artistic and musical family. He was the youngest child of Edmund Morrison and Mary “Mamie” Hourihan. His grandfather, also Patrick Morrison, was an oboe virtuoso, who taught and composed music.
From an early age Morrison loved to draw and also showed great ability as an athlete. Soon after moving to England with his family at the age of 13, he joined the local athletic club and was very quickly recognised as a great sprinter. He won the AAA (Amateur Athletic Association) all-English Championship as a junior, and the following year won the senior AAA competition at 100 yards and 220 yards. He was selected for the English national squad for these distances and also represented Ireland against England in what was an annual competition at Santry, Dublin where he set a new Irish record in the 100 yards in a time of 9.6 seconds, a record he held for many years. Within an hour of this achievement he had matched the existing Irish 220 yards record.
He was awarded an athletic scholarship to Stanford University where he quickly became their star athlete and team captain and was soon competing against future Olympian athletes, such as Tommie Smith. Morrison’s arrival at Stanford coincided with the dawn of the 1960s and his longish hair created a controversy of sorts. When asked to cut it short he refused, and the very conservative coach, Peyton Jordan, who had helped him get his scholarship, dropped him from the team. Stanford, fearing Morrison had a valid legal case against the college, awarded him an academic scholarship and he later majored in English literature.
During his time at Stanford, he was also painting and making music, playing the harmonica in a blues band, the Gyre, named after the WB Yeats poem. His interest in painting intensified and he studied under Nathan Olivera and Joe Oddo often sneaking into the San Francisco Art Institute art classes. His exceptional artistic talent was soon recognised by the institute who then awarded what was to be Morrison’s third scholarship.
During this time he married his first wife, Madeline Puzo, and they moved to Los Angeles. After some years he moved to downtown LA and became custodian of the Cotton Exchange, one of the city’s oldest buildings. The building’s large basement became Morrison’s studio affording him the space to accommodate his interest in big canvases at that time. Many of his paintings were influenced by the downtown scene including the homeless around the Skid Row area.
Morrison was a figurative painter who was interested in the human body and still life painting. He was drawn to the work of Hans Hoffman, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, and Lucian Freud. His work was often inspired by iconic images associated with LA – swimming pools, lush gardens, garish sunsets, and the individual’s relationship with the urban landscape.
He was a skilled portrait painter. His canvas of the French actress Anna Karina inspired her to comment: “He captures me as I appear and as I feel.” Gisela Guttman was first in LA to put together shows of his art, and in 1984 Earl McGrath became his dealer.
The 1980s were a particularly fertile period in Morrison’s artistic career, where he painted at a furious pace. He often travelled to Europe for exhibitions and private commissions. Morrison collaborated with other artists, and his paintings were notably displayed in many films. His passion for music, cinema and literature were prominent subjects in his work.
Morrison showed his work in various galleries in Los Angeles, as well as shows in New York, Berlin, Dublin and Waterford. His work has been acquired by many private collectors including Dennis Hopper, Mick Jagger, Faye Dunaway, Wim Wenders, Ronee Blakley, Bono, Sir Ben Kingsley, Fionnula Flanagan, and Nick Nolte. Recently he had focused on landscapes in Ireland, the high Sierras, and Hawaii and also figurative studies in charcoal. His images of Memories of the Savoy were used for two years running at the Cork Film Festival.
Although he loved to paint and work from morning until night, he was a devoted husband and father and always found time to make dinner for the family. Morrison bore his illness with great patience and good humour, with the loving support of his wife Carey Kawaye-Morrison, and their two sons.
He is survived by Carey, sons Brendan and Liam, his first wife, Madeline Puzo, his sister, Helen Tully, and her husband, Donal, and their children, in Waterford, and the family of his late sister Elma O’Shea in England.
A memorial Mass was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Beverly Hills, California yesterday.