Campbell Bruce – A Life together in Art

Campbell Bruce “Swimming Pool Reflection Series: Reflection in Blue” Oil on canvas, cm 128×78, 1966
Campbell Bruce “Swimming Pool Reflection Series: Reflection in Blue” Oil on canvas, cm 128×78, 1966

A tribute to Campbell Bruce selected by Jacqueline Stanley At The Origin Gallery, 12th February – 6th March 2015

Campbell Bruce was not just an accomplished painter, but a significant and influential figure on the Irish visual arts for almost 40 years.
He was professor of Fine Art at National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and was equally active in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), thereby bridging the next existing gap between the contemporary and experimental in art, and the more traditional and ‘academic tradition’ – a distinction now made irrelevant. He was also president of the Irish Contemporary Arts Society (ICAS) and president of the Irish Association of Art Critics (AICA) as well as an international vice president of the AICA.

With his wife, the London-born artist Jacqueline Stanley, he was a constant end enthusiastic figure on the galleries circuit and was supportive of all artistic activities, no matter how small, having particular regard to the role of emerging artists and collectors.
A striking, handsome figure with moustache and piercing eyes, Campbell was often assumed to have come from a South African or Australian background, but he was in fact born in 1927 on the remote island of St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled. At the age of 9, he moved to England, where he went on to study at the Croydon College of Art in Design in 1950 and the Royal College of Art in 1953. He later taught painting at various UK colleges, including North Straffordshire Polytechnic and Canterbury College of Art & Design.

In 1954 he married Jacqueline Stanley, with whom he lived for 60 years. Immediately on arriving in Ireland in 1974, he and Jackie became very involved in the arts scene: a glamorous presence, offering hospitality at their home and ‘magical’ garden in Sandymount and being unfailingly helpful to artists, critics and gallery owners.as well as teaching and curating, Campbell was himself an accomplished painter, depicting coastal and landscape scenes and in later years exhibiting in the Solomon Gallery and with Gormley’s Fine Art as well as the RHA, to which he was elected in 2005.
With Catherine Marshall, he curated a major exhibition entitled Siar 50 – Fifty Years of Irish Art, which was held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham and drawn from the extensive collections of the ICAS.Campbell is survived by his wife Jackie, daughters Claire, Jane and Nichola, and acclaimed filmmaker, as well as grandchildren, sons-in-law Philip and Chris, and his sister Ethel Feill, along with many others relatives, friends and collegues. There was a large attendance at his humanist funeral held in Glansnevin Cemetery Chapel, with a wide selection from the artistic community, including Eoin McGonical SC, chairman of IMMA, Barbara Dawson of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Catherine Marshall of the Royal Irish Academy and James Hanley and Mick O’Dea of the RHA.

There were warm tributes from members of his family, including a moving final salutation from his daughter Nichola who described her father as simply a man who could make things grow, be they “vegetables, colors, lights or daughters”, an inquisitive man with a zest for life, and for trying to give it some artistic shape, who could both “work in the rain” or “take a line for a walk”.

Article by Eamon Delaney Published 23/02/2014

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