Landscape artist Edmund Sullivan, whose work since 1976 focused on Ireland, died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was buried Saturday in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, after a funeral mass at Church of the Annunciation, in nearby Crestwood.
Sullivan, 72, was often mistaken for an Irish native, but the Bronx-born artist, the son of a Kerry father and a mother from Derry, in his own words, has "9,000 years of Irish red blood ... flowing through my American veins." He was the first American painter in history to focus his life's work on Ireland, and returned there often. In an exclusive, 3-part series produced by The Wild Geese in 2004, Sullivan, a former Marine, related how he came to turn his artistry to "Mother Ireland."
Left, Edmund Sullivan in his gallery, in Newtown, Conn., 2001.
In the series, Edmund shared his love of Ireland, his 'Irish story,' and how he discovered and nurtured his calling. He took great delight in conveying to our readers the details of how he became one of the best-known presenters of the Irish countryside's legendary beauty. Rereading his words today, I'm struck at how they read like an epitaph. He was ill then, and as seems clear from the following excerpt, he came to embrace his mortality and his legacy.
"Fair Hills of Ireland," right, an example of Edmund Sullivan's work.
Edmund wrote in our pages then:
For instance, being an Irish-American in America. Often Irish-born patrons would be surprised that I was American born, and paint Irish landscapes. ... My pride, if it could be called that, would say that the 9,000 years of Irish red blood of my ancestors flowing through my American veins gives me the distinction of living the best of both worlds. At once ancient, sensual, carnal and fair, intimate with the heart and soul of the Irish land, sky, and sea, and the blessed freedom born of revolution and courage and opportunity in the USA.
I live in the best of times. And in that knowledge, I feel deeply obliged to be one with those who went before me but are me. To be refreshment to their heavenly souls and in a forgotten hint of song … hear their kindly words "Well done, Edmund, well done."
I wouldn't presume to speak for the Irish beyond the veil, but will happily add my voice to theirs, and state emphatically, "Well done, indeed, mo chara. Well done, indeed!" WG