Dublin City Council Honours Leo Whelan RHA - A True Dublin Artist

At 2.30p.m., on Friday 2nd October at 65 Eccles Street, Dublin 7, Dublin City Council, as part of their new Commemorative Plaque Scheme will honour Leo Whelan, Artist. The President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, Mick O’Dea will unveil the plaque in the presence of Leo’s relatives.

Speaking at the unveiling, Mick O’Dea, President of the Royal Hibernian Academy said “It is a privilege for me as President of the Royal Hibernian Academy to have the honour of unveiling Dublin’s newest plaque commemorating and celebrating the artist Leo Whelan RHA, one of the finest portrait painters that this city and our country has ever produced.”

Tony Murnaghan, Leo’s grandnephew said, “Our family is absolutely delighted that this honour is being bestowed on our wonderfully talented great-uncle Leo. It is indeed a fitting tribute to his skills for him to be publicly recognised in such a meaningful and lasting way by the City Council which serves the Dublin he loved so much".

Leo Whelan was one of the most talented, prolific and successful Irish artists working in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Drumcondra in 1892, his family moved to 65 Eccles Street in 1903 when Leo was eleven. Leo was educated locally at Belvedere College and went on to study art at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in Kildare Street under the tuition and influence of the renowned Dublin born artist Sir William Orpen. In 1912 Leo opened a studio in Dawson Street and started to receive regular commissions.

In the 1920s, Leo started to concentrate on portraiture. His greatest successes concerned the portrayal of famous people who built up modern Ireland which was emerging during this time. His sitters included a wide range of eminent public figures from the political, academic, legal and celebrity worlds. Leo’s best known portraits (of the many hundreds he painted) hang in public and state institutions and include General Michael Collins and Eamonn De Valera which now hang in Leinster House.

Leo Whelan was unmarried. He lived at 65 Eccles Street until his death in 1956.


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Notes to the Editor

  • Well known portraits by LEO WHELAN
  • General Michael Collins (Leinster House)
  • General Richard Mulcahy (McKee Barracks)
  • Eamonn De Valera (Leinster House)
  • Sean T. O’Ceallaigh (Aras An Uachtaran)
  • Dr Douglas Hyde (Aras An Uachtaran)
  • John F. Costello (Kings Inns)
  • Kevin O’Higgins (Leinster House)
  • Rory O’Connor (National Gallery of Ireland)
  • Group portrait of General Headquarters Staff of Pre Treaty IRA (Collins Barracks)
  • Arthur Griffith (Leinster House)
  • Cardinal MacRory

Whelan exhibited an average of six paintings every year at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1911 until the year of his death. He also exhibited in America, London, Paris and Brussels.

The State chose Leo to design the first Free State Commemorative Stamp which was issued in 1929 (a portrait of Daniel O’Connell). He was later selected to design a set of stamps depicting Cardinal Newman in 1954 to mark the Catholic University Centenary.

One of Leos greatest achievements in his early years was winning the Taylor Art Scholarship prize of £50 in 1916 for the painting “The Doctors Visit” which was set in one of the bedrooms of 65 Eccles Street (The painting is currently held by the National Gallery of Ireland – catalogue no 4462). The basement of 65 Eccles Street was the scene of two other excellent genre pictures (The Kitchen Window – 1927 - held by the Crawford Gallery, Cork) and (Interior of a Kitchen - 1935 held by Ulster Museum, Belfast).

Commemorative Plaques

A Commemorative Naming Committee was established by Dublin City Council to consider and recommend the selection of individuals or events which will be commemorated through the erection of monuments / plaques.

These Commemorative Plaques provide the City with an opportunity to honour and remember a significant person, group or event and to celebrate the uniqueness of the City and create a sense of place which is identified as being of great importance to citizens and visitors. Leo Whelan’s plaque is the third plaque to be erected under this scheme.