Renowned sculptor best known for 'Anna Livia'


EAMONN O’DOHERTY:EAMONN O’DOHERTY, who has died aged 72, was best known for his large-scale public sculptures in Ireland, the US and Britain.

The sculpture that attracted the most public attention, and sparked a major controversy, was the Anna Liviafountain in Dublin. Created in collaboration with consultant engineer Seán Mulcahy, it was originally located on O’Connell Street to mark the city’s millennium in 1988.

Costing IR£200,000 and funded by Michael Smurfit, it took only six months to be completed from its commission. O’Doherty conceded that the hurry to build it “led to a lack of refinement in some details of the stonework and the figure, particularly the head”.

Aesthetic considerations aside, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi, as he named it, was accused of attracting litter-louts, drug dealers and criminals. O’Doherty argued that it was no more the cause of attracting criminals than it was of attracting the litter that was dumped in its waters. “It was not a failure of art, but a failure of city management,” he said.

One of the sculpture’s critics, labelling it “crude” and “provincial”, said it undermined the “grandeur and scale” of Dublin’s principal street.

In 2001, after Dublin City Council decreed that the fountain did not fit in with plans for the regeneration of O’Connell Street, it was dismantled and taken in crates to St Anne’s Park, Raheny, where it was stored in a potting shed.

It was re-erected earlier this year at the Croppy Acre memorial park, beside the river Liffey and facing Collins Barracks. Early indications are that it is more fondly regarded in its new setting than heretofore.

Four other public sculptures by O’Doherty stand in Dublin, two in Galway, two in Derry and others in Antrim, Navan, New Ross, Ardagh, Ballymahon, Cobh, Dún Laoghaire, Enniskillen, Cahirciveen, Killarney, Belfast, Liverpool and New York.

Landmark works include the James Connolly memorial in Dublin, the quincentennial sculpture in Eyre Square, Galway, and the Great Hunger memorial in Westchester, New York.

Born in Derry in 1939, O’Doherty grew up in the Westend Park area of the city and was educated at St Columb’s College. He graduated from University College Dublin with an architectural degree and was awarded a visiting scholarship to Harvard University.

In the 1960s O’Doherty began exhibiting paintings, lithographs and small-scale sculptures in Dublin. He showed his work at the major exhibitions – Independent Artists, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Oireachtas and Royal Hibernian Academy – as well as smaller group shows.

He was from an early age fascinated by the “gaudy rituals, the processions and altar performances, the strange outfits and glittering artefacts of the [Catholic] Church”. This fascination is reflected in his work for, as he said, “the robes and uniforms are a gift for the painter or sculptor”.

O’Doherty was also an accomplished photographer, and had an abiding interest in traditional music. In the 1970s he collaborated with Allen Feldman to produce The Northern Fiddler(1979), for which he wrote the introduction and contributed photographs and drawings.

In 2002 an exhibition of his photographs from the Irish Traditional Music Archive travelled to Glucksman House in New York, the Fowler Museum in California and the University of Virginia.

A musician, O’Doherty played the flute and his compositions include a ballad commemorating Belfast IRA leader Joe McCann. He also briefly managed the folk group Sweeney’s Men.

For many years a senior lecturer in architecture at Dublin Institute of Technology, O’Doherty also lectured at the University of Jordan, University of Nebraska and École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris. He retired to make art full time in 2002, and his work was most recently exhibited at the Graphic Studio Gallery in Dublin.

He was a prizewinner at the Claremorris Open Exhibition in 1981, and won the Connor/Moran award for sculpture at the RHA annual exhibition in 2006. The following year he was chosen as the winner of the Selvaag/Peer Gynt sculpture competition, which drew 77 submissions by artists from 18 countries.

O’Doherty is survived by his wife Barbara Ní Brolocháin, son Eoin and daughters Aisling and Megan.

Eamonn O’Doherty: born June 18th, 1939; died August 4th, 2011