Celebrating the enduring genius of George Bernard Shaw

Celebrating the enduring genius of George Bernard Shaw

Donegal artist Mark McFadden pays tribute to Shaw’s enduring genius with a masterful palette knife oil painting to be unveiled at Killarney’s Muckross Park Hotel

George Bernard Shaw — the portrait by Mark McFadden

Coming from the Gaeltacht town of Falcarragh in northwest Co. Donegal, self-taught artist Mark McFadden invested twelve months of meticulous craftsmanship to breathe life into his masterpiece of George Bernard Shaw.

Standing at 5ft 6ins tall, the imposing palette knife oil painting commemorates Shaw’s birthday on July 26, 1856, and will be revealed at the Muckross Park Hotel & Spa in Co. Kerry on that anniversary next Wednesday.

Having lived in London, Paris, and the Côte d’Azur for the past 30 years, McFadden has developed a distinctive palette knife technique characterised by colourful textured layering, which has garnered international acclaim.

His work now adorns the private collections of luminaries such as singer Julian Lennon, the Levett Family Trust, and Monaco’s Prince Albert, son of Princess Grace Kelly, who purchased his portrait of novelist and poet James Joyce.

Mark McFadden at work

The painting of Shaw completes McFadden’s Irish Literary Greats collection and pays homage to the captivating notion that the playwright may have written some, or all, of his world-renowned 1913 play Pygmalion (the timeless tale of Eliza Doolittle et al), in the very surroundings of Muckross Park, nestled in Killarney’s majestic National Park.

“He certainly developed an affection for Muckross Park, spending numerous summer evenings there, reading and writing in the gardens, relishing the ambience of the bar now known as The Monk's Lounge,” McFadden told The Irish Post.

“There’s no doubt that Shaw and his wife Charlotte Payne Townsend were frequent guests at the hotel — one of the suites at Muckross bears his name -— and there are strong indications that he may have come up with and penned Pygmalion in the hotel,” the artist said.

Shaw is one of only two people to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1925) and an Academy Award (1938).

The other was Bob Dylan – Nobel Prize winner 2016, and an Oscar in 2001 for Best Original Song featured in the movie The Wonder Boys.

The Oscar triumph for Shaw was for the adapted screenplay of Pygmalion, which went on to be remade as the successful musical and film My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.

Recalling the arduous process of painting Shaw, McFadden said: “I can’t recall exactly how long it took me to paint – it was certainly over a year, marked by perseverance amid overwhelming doubt and personal struggles inherent in any artist's journey.

“In such moments, I found inspiration in one of my heroes Vincent van Gogh, who employed the impasto technique, using a knife to apply paint to canvas. Though it can be a laborious and doubt-ridden process - and yes, you might even consider lobbing off an ear lobe and mailing it to someone as a token of affection – but in general, the outcome can be truly incredible”, he said.

McFadden’s collection of Irish Literary Greats includes Joyce, Behan, Yeats, a remarkable 6 feet 6 inches portrait of Oscar Wilde, Kerry’s own John B. Keane and many more. The inclusion of Bernard Shaw brings the collection to an end, as it takes up residence at Muckross Park from July 26.