The art of John Luke

The Rehearsal (1950)
John Luke 1906-1975
© The Estate of John Luke
Collection Ulster Museum
A new exhibition featuring some of John Luke’s finest works is currently on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Northern Rhythm: The Art of John Luke (1906 –1975) celebrates the life and art of one of Northern Ireland’s most distinguished artists. The exhibition, curated by Dr Joseph McBrinn of the University of Ulster, is the most comprehensive retrospective and critical assessment of John Luke’s work ever mounted and will include examples of Luke’s most important portraits, landscapes, drawings, designs for murals and sculptures, as well as examples of his woodcut and linocut prints.

Luke was a painter, muralist, printmaker and sculptor, who began his life working as a riveter in the Belfast’s shipyards. A modernist who was dedicated to craftsmanship, Luke’s artwork is characterised by a unique sense of ‘rhythm’ he found in the Northern Ireland landscapes. Described by his friend and local poet John Hewitt as: “Not at all close to the romantic stereotype of the artist”, Luke’s strict technical discipline matched his compulsively neat and simple lifestyle.

Dr McBrinn says: “John Luke is one of twentieth century Ireland’s greatest artists. He was a hugely talented painter, sculptor and printmaker, who was born in Belfast and began his working life in the city’s great shipyards and linen mills. Luke trained as an artist in Belfast and London in the age of the ‘Bright Young Things’ and although he was a committed Modernist he dedicated his life to the ideals of craftsmanship. A painter by choice but a manual worker by nature, Luke’s work is utterly unique, even by today’s standards, in its decorative lyricism and abstract expressiveness.”

Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art at National Museums Northern Ireland, said: “This exhibition provides the public with an exceptional opportunity to discover one of Northern Ireland’s most loved artists. The Ulster Museum has the greatest publically owned collection of John Luke’s work in the world. Northern Rhythm: The Art of John Luke (1906 – 1975) features Luke’s iconic paintings, drawings and his designs for murals and sculptures. The exhibition includes the beautiful Northern Rhythm, considered by John Luke to be his master work.”

Launching at the same time as the John Luke exhibition is the 300 Years of Irish Landscape Painting exhibition, drawn from the Museum’s own collection, which traces the history of Irish landscape painting from the 1700s to the present.

On display until February 2013, Northern Rhythm: The Art of John Luke (1906 – 1975) will be accompanied by special events and also tours by the exhibition curator, Dr Joseph McBrinn. For further information visit

Post Author: Belfast Times