Artist Patrick O'Hara Paints the Wildflowers of California

The Wild Irish: World-renowned Artist Patrick O'Hara Paints the Wildflowers of California

September 1, 2007

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Ironwood

The Wild Irish: World-renowned Artist Patrick O'Hara Paints the Wildflowers of California

From his tiny village of Currabinny in the south-west of Ireland, Patrick O'Hara has built an international reputation in the world of botanical art. His new watercolor collection, "Wildflowers of California", specially commissioned by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, is the culmination of a lifetime involvement with plant conservation, and nearly 40 years experience as an artist.

From his first lessons in watercolors at the age of ten, and throughout his education in botany, zoology, geology, and ecology, Patrick constantly developed his drawing skills, taking a special interest in butterflies and moths. In 1969, after ten years as an agricultural advisor, he moved into the art world to develop his own unique approach to ceramics. By 1972, his intricate and accurate porcelain sculptures of wildflowers and butterflies had attracted a great following in London. That year, O'Hara's first major exhibition was staged at Cartier on Fifth Avenue, New York where his work gained plaudits from the Curator of Western Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum "probably the most delicate porcelain every produced in the West," and fulsome praise from wildlife experts such as Roger Tory Peterson.

Patrick has studied rare and special wildflowers in wilderness and rugged habitats around the world and his botanical art has been used to support and highlight conservation projects in many different countries. In 1984, he had the unique honor of being invited to state a special exhibition at the United Nations as a focal point for the International Year for Plant Conservation.

O'Hara has spent time in the southern Sonoran deserts along the Mexican and Arizona borders, through the Mojave and Joshua Tree areas, up the Central Valley and along the Coastal ranges from Los Angeles to San Francisco, through the Feather River canyons, Butterfly Valley and Plumas National Forest, shivered on high peaks and sweated in hot meadows in Yosemite, camped in King's Canyon, and been snowed-in amongst the giants in Sequoia National Park.

In his wilderness travels, Patrick O'Hara makes full use of the fact that as a foreigner he can look at the surroundings with a fresh eye, and often marvels at the miracles of nature that locals have long since taken for granted. It was this ability to inspire people to get involved in plant conservation that led to his being given the rare honor of being elected as a Fellow of the Linnaen Society. As the world's oldest extant biological society, the Linnean Society of London remains a leading forum for contemporary discussions on genetics, natural history, systematics, biology and the history of plant and animal taxonomy.

Since his launch into the art world 40 years ago, Patrick has completed more than 600 porcelain sculptures depicting a total of at least 2,000 different species of plants, insects and small animals in their habitats. The Garden is privileged to have three of these exquisite sculptures as a part of our permanent collection. Patrick's work is in many public collections, including those of the National Museum of Ireland, the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Richmond Botanic Garden in Virginia, the National Band of Dubai, GlaxoSmithKline Corporation, the Flagler Museum in Florida, and in many great private art collections, such as the Mellon family and Prince Charles. We are grateful that he has graced us with yet another art medium through which we can celebrate our unique California habitat.

Please join us for a reception October 4, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Frame Shop, 907 State Street, to view Patrick's exquisite work. These limited edition giclees, each signed and numbered, will be on display through October 31 and are available for purchase at Santa Barbara Frame Shop and the Botanic Garden.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Ironwood
Volume 15, Issue 5
September, 2007