John Behan

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John Behan RHA


Born in Dublin in 1938, and now living and working near Galway city where he continues to vary his style of expression, John Behan is firmly established as a sculptor of international stature.


After an apprenticeship in metal work and welding, the foundations for Behan’s success were laid in the sixties, when he trained in London and Oslo and began to exhibit widely. But he also had a wider artistic vision, which saw him challenge the elitism of the art establishment and seek to popularise art. He was a founder member of the New Artists’ group in 1962 and Dublin’s innovative Project Art Centre in Dublin in 1967.

He has been awarded many honours and became a Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1990, having been an Associate of the Academy since 1973.

Celebrated for his early bull sculptures – described by playwright Brian Friel as ‘enormously solid artefacts, 4-square on the earth, confident, assured, executed to a point of absolute completion’ – Behan’s style is still evolving and growing. In a general sense he can be credited with playing a major part in the development of sculpture in Ireland over the last forty years.

In June 2000 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway on the same day his large commissioned sculpture, Twin Spires, was unveiled at the college.

His major public commissions include Flight of Birds, Famine Ship, Tree of Liberty, Daedalus, Millennium Child, Arrival and Equality Emerging, unveiled in Galway city in November 2001.

A film documentary of John Behan’s work entitled ‘Famine Ship’ was broadcast in Ireland and the U.K. in 1999 and is distributed in North America by The Cinema Guild Inc. and the rest of the world by Network Television.

The poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney has said of the artist: “There is something psychologically salubrious about John Behan. It is as if you are encountering what the Upanishads call the ancient self, something previous to an underlying individual character, some kind of psychic bedrock.”


1970 Cúchulann Relief Panel, Gresham Hotel, Dublin (now in DIT, Kevin Street)
1972 Wall Panel, IPA, Dublin
1975 Aluminium Abstract, Irish Management Institute, Dublin
1975 The Mariner, North Wall Quay, Dublin
1978 Birds, Irish Life Centre, Dublin
1980 Celtic Realm, Insurance Corporation of Ireland
1982 Megalithic Memories, AIB Bank, Dublin
1983 The Turfcutter, Bord na Mona, Baggot St., Dublin
1984 Swan Fountain, Cork
1987 Flight of Birds, Dr. Tony Ryan, Co. Tipperary
1989 Religious Sculptures, Creeslough, Co. Donegal
Religious Sculptures, St. Bridget’s, Derry
1990 Winged Man, Ennis, Co. Clare
1992 International League for Human Rights (Peace Awards) UNESCO
1997 Famine Ship, National Famine Commemoration Sculpture, Murrisk, Mayo
1998 The Tree of Liberty, 1798 Memorial, Carlow
1999 Twin Spires, National University of Ireland, Galway
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Mothers Awards
2000 Arrival – The New Dawn, United Nations Plaza, New York
2000 Millennium Child, Christchurch Place, Dublin (commissioned by Barnardos)
2001 Equality Emerging, Salmon Weir Bridge, Galway (commissioned by SIPTU)
2001 Tree of Hope, CPI, Sandymount
2003 Golden Birds, Four Seasons Hotel Dublin
2006 Circle of Birds, The Hospice, Harolds Cross, Dublin
2007 Flight of the Earls Monument, Rathmullan, Co. Donegal

National Gallery of Ireland
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane
Crawford Municipal Gallery of Art, Cork
National Self Portrait Collection of Ireland
United Nations, New York
Shenzen Airport, China
University College, Galway
An Chomhairle Ealaíon / Arts Council of Ireland
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Galway County Council
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
The Irish Club, London
AIB Bank
Bank of Ireland
Smurfit Kappa PLC
Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin
The UTV Collection

President Mary McAleese & Mr. Martin McAleese
The Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson & Mr. Nicholas Robinson
HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
President Bill Clinton & Hillary Clinton
Ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith
Mr. Samuel Beckett
Mr. Charles J. Haughey
Mr. Seamus Heaney
Dr. T. A. Ryan
Ms. Edna O’Brien
Mr. Placido Domingo
Mr. Maurice Foley
Mr. Pierce Brosnan
Mr. Tom Berenger
Mrs. Norma Smurfit