Lynn Donoghue was born in Red Lake, Ontario in 1953. Her mining engineer father moved the family many times - to Newfoundland, and Northern and Southern Ontario -- and Lynn finished her schooling at London, Ontario's highly touted Beal Tech, where she began her training in the arts. She lived variously in Toronto, Bath (England), and New York City and exhibited her work, since 1973, throughout Canada, in the USA and in the UK.
Lynn was first and foremost a painter. Her early exhibited work became steeped in controversy when some galleries refused to show her giant portraits of naked males. Combined with her Chardin-inspired still life paintings, Lynn's work caught the attention of critics immediately.
"Donoghue's works are in marked contrast to the often cynical strategies and personal distancing evident in the neo-expressionist modes and mass-media-derived representations that have come to dominate Canadian painting in recent years. Her enterprise demonstrates an essential good will toward her subject matter."
-- Ron Shuebrook, Vanguard, Summer 1984.
Her classicism, says David Mirvish, could create great boardroom portraiture in the grand tradition of Frans Hals. "It's a real challenge because it's a rare moment in history when there's a social situation and a painter capable of capturing it converging." People in the great 17th-century portraits are remembered because they were immortalized in paint. Mirvish feels that a big corporation could do the same thing and get a magnificent 30-foot painting out of it. "Of course," he laughs, "if someone got fired, Lynn could just repaint the head."
-- Marjorie Harris, The Financial Post Magazine, August 1, 1984
From The Financial Post Magazine, August 1, 1984:
Lynn Donoghue, at the astonishingly young age of 31, is considered one of the pre-eminent portrait painters in this country. Rather unusual for a portrait painter, she has been in more than 30 group shows and had more than a dozen solo exhibitions since she started showing her work in 1973. She paints portraits exclusively, and all her subjects must sit in person.
To see a Donoghue in progress is to see how, in her own words, she "slap, slap, slaps" the oil on the canvas. Whatever precision there is in the finished image has been bullied into life as splotches of colour build and the terre verte (green crayon) drawing she does directly on the empty canvas assumes flesh and form. The larger-than-life scale of her work turns her subjects into icons, which is exactly what the artist intends. This is not "society" painting.
Donoghue has pushed and pulled her canvasses into all sorts of shapes, experimenting with cutouts and large-scale installations. Mirror Image is one such work consisting of self-portraits, painted from an enormous number of angles and showing many different outfits, hung from the wall and suspended as cutouts from the ceiling. She has also done series portraits, one of them being the more recent Reliquary. This is an installation of 15 separate paintings, each canvas completed in one week. In front of the painting, on the floor, is a small plaster marker embedded with some items of the sitter's choice that might further define his or her personality.
She contends that her historic mentors, Velasquez, Manet and Frans Hals, convey in their portraits the feeling of people who are very alive. "Why do people know, when they look at a painting of mine, that it is a real person?" is one of her perpetual queries into the nature of portrait painting. The icons she creates seem real because the attitude, the stance and the contemporary look are still with us. But will they have the same resonance in 50 years? This concerns Donoghue. A couple of years ago, she found out she was diabetic and, she says, "You get into junk like immortality. It forced my hand a bit." Perhaps that urgency is part of her latest paintings, such as Reliquary, Four Tradesmen and the other recent portraits, where the brushwork and composition are much looser than in her very precise early work.
Portrait of Goldie, of a well-to-do art dealer, is a revelation of both painter and sitter. Goldie stood for hours on end through the process while the artist daubed away. Donoghue laughingly refers to it as her John Singer Sargent painting. The full-length figure with one elbow arrogantly thrust out is loaded up with jewelry normally stored in a safe-deposit box. "With Goldie, this is not like doing a society lady. She has always worked, always collected art and she didn't get all wierded-out about what her nose looked like or whether she was pink or beige." Donoghue now worries less about what the sitter gets out of the process; she simply says, "Well, this is what I do, and this is how I do it."
She no longer has details in the background, and settings are kept purposefully vague. Achieving a likeness has never been a problem for Donoghue, but her technique has changed radically over the years. "I used to plan every part of the painting. Now, I don't know until I finish where I'm going to go in the painting process. I let the paint tell me what it wants to."
David Mirvish, patron and art collector has sat for Donoghue three times. "We're both Chatty Cathys," he says, "so we have a great time talking. She's sensitive to mood. She may catch you at a different angle, and not every subject feels that's the way they want to be seen. The important thing is whether it's a successful picture or not. You shouldn't expect to like a portrait. She'll paint you the way she wants."
Her classicism, says David Mirvish, could create great boardroom portraiture in the grand tradition of Frans Hals. "It's a real challenge because it's a rare moment in history when there's a social situation and a painter capable of capturing it converging." People in the great 17th-century portraits are remembered because they were immortalized in paint. Mirvish feels that a big corporation could do the same thing and get a magnificent 30-foot painting out of it. "Of course," he laughs, "if someone got fired, Lynn could just repaint the head." -- Marjorie Harris
The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art
The Canadian Art Database