James O' Malley

Portrait Artist

Newport Viaduct
Thomas Malone Collection
St. Jarlath's College Tuam
Central Park New York
Renvyle Castle, Galway

This famous artist exhibited in the Dublin Royal Irish Academy. He has had paintings hung in Tuam, Galway, Newport, Westport. Plus he also exhibited in New York.

The information in this story was sourced from the Historian, Dr Sheila’s Mulloy’s Publication, “O Malley People and Places“. [i]

James O’ Malley was born in Newport, Co. Mayo about 1816. He was the second son of Patrick, a farmer and shopkeeper.

He became a pupil of Martin Cregan (1788 – 1870) the foremost portrait painter of his time.  O’ Malley had displayed artistic ability as a young child.


In 1853 he engraved a sketch of Archbishop Hughes. During the years 1867 – 1879 O’Malley lived at an address in Cross Street Galway.  He made a living with painting portraits of religious subjects, including Bishop McEvilly and Bishop Carr of Melbourne. [ii]

A deeply spiritual portrait of “Fr. Tom Burke,” a famous preacher was hung in the Dominican Priory in Galway.  Also within the Priory was a portrait of “Fr. Folan with a Claddagh Boy.”

In O’ Malley’s native town Newport there is a “Sacred Heart” portrait within the Catholic Church Sacristy with an “Assumption” plus “Good Shepherd” hung either side of the main door.

Unfortunately the portrait of “Archbishop Mac Hale” painted in 1868 that hung in the presentation convent, Tuam is the only remaining painting of that era now available.  Neither are his portraits, which were located in the Pro–Cathedral, Galway plus Westport parish church during Strickland’s time available.


O’Malley exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy. His most famous works were “Connemara Wedding” plus “The Tooth Drawer” in 1842 also during 1845 “The Claddagh Musician.”  Later again from 1875 – 1882 he exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy, among them a portrait of “Charles Blake Forester”, the historian in 1881 also “The Galway Piper” during 1882.

Apart from the years 1884 – 1887 which he spent in Galway, O’Malley retired to live with his sister at Derrinlagart Cottage, Newport,where he died suddenly of heart disease  on 16th October 1888.


James O’ Malley lived for a time in New York. During 1951 he exhibited “Tear of Sorrow” at the American Art Union.  That same year he exhibited “Napoleon” and “Nativity” at the same venue.

His word’s “Every Stone has a beauty for me” is truly inspirational.


Strickland mentions O’ Malley’s portrait of “Archbishop Mac Hale” that had hung in St. Jarlath’s College plus the Presentation Convent, Tuam in his “Dictionary of Irish Artists.”   Strickland describes him as a “of a mild modest and retiring disposition, living alone and making but few friends; upright and sincere, and devoted to his art”


[i] REFERERENCE SOURCE: Mulloy, Sheila, 1998, “O’Malley People and Places”, Whitegate, Co Clare, Ballinakella Press.

[ii] www.libraryireland.com


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