Sean Scully


Sean Scully's work has shifted the paradigm in American abstraction from minimalism and its reduced vocabulary toward an emotional form of abstraction, returning to the metaphor and spirituality found in the European painting tradition. While known primarily for his large-scale abstract paintings comprised of vertical and horizontal bands, tessellating blocks and geometrical forms comprised of gradated and shifting colors, he also works in a variety of diverse media, including printmaking, sculpture, watercolour and pastel. Having developed a style that is uniquely his own over the past 50 years, he has cemented his place in the history of painting. His work synthesizes a thoroughly international collection of influences and personal perspectives, ranging from the legacy of American abstraction, with inspiration from the likes of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and that of the European tradition, with nods to Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian, as well as references to classical Greek architecture. While monumental in scale and gesture, his work retains an undeniable delicacy and sincerity of emotion. 

Born in Dublin in 1945 and raised in South London, Mr. Scully wanted to be an artist from an early age. He attended evening classes at the Central School of Art in London from 1962 to 1965, and enrolled full time at Croydon College of Art, London, from 1965 until 1968. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Newcastle University in 1972. Later that year, he was awarded the Frank Knox Fellowship to attend Harvard University. In 1975, he moved to New York. Today, he lives and works between New York and Bavaria. With a career that spans more than five decades, he has received numerous accolades and has been the subject of multiple touring exhibitions. In 2014, he became the first Western artist to present a career-length retrospective in China. “Follow the Heart: The Art of Sean Scully, 1964–2014” included over 100 paintings and traveled from Shanghai to Beijing. He was named a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2013 and has received honorary degrees from institutions such as the Massachusetts College of Art, the National University of Ireland, Universidad Miguel Hernández in Valencia, Burren College of Art in Ireland and Newcastle University, among others. A series of essays and conversations between Mr. Scully and esteemed art critic Arthur Danto was published by Hatje Cantz in 2014 and “Inner,” a collection of the artist’s own writing, selected speeches and interviews was released in 2016.

Significant solo exhibitions of his work were on view at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England (2023); Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen, (2022–2023), Philadelphia Museum of Art (2022); Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest (2020–2021); Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, Wuppertal, Germany (2020–2021); Albertina, Vienna (2019); Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara, Mexico (2019); San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (2019); LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany (2019); Villa e Collezione Panza, Fondo Ambiente Italiano, Varese, Italy (2019–2020); National Gallery, London (2019); the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2019); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., (2018–2019); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, England (2018–2019); De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, the Netherlands (2018); Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany (2018); Cuadra San Cristóbal, Mexico City (2018); State Russian Museum – Marble Palace, St. Petersburg, (2018); Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (2017); Art Museum, Nanjing University of the Arts, China (2016); Guangzhou Museum of Art, (2016); Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, (2017); Shanghai Himalayas Museum (2014– 2015); and Central Academy of Fine Arts Beijing (2015). In 2015, he oversaw the complete renovation of the Romanesque chapel Santa Cecília de Montserrat near Barcelona, featuring his work in dialogue with the historic architecture and restoring the church to working condition.

Mr. Scully’s work is in the permanent collections of numerous prestigious institutions, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MoMA, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Gallery of Ontario; Tate Modern, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Albertina, Vienna; and Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, among many others.


© Sean Scully, Courtesy Lisson Gallery, Photographer Andrew Quinn

Sean Scully