Markey Robinson has emerged, less than a decade after his death, as mythic figure. There is now less comment about his personal eccentricities — the shambolic shopping-cart life, the Joycean extemporising — than on his inarguable brilliance and originality.
Oriel Gallery founder Oliver Nulty (1920–2004) nurtured a then-emerging talent starting in the 1960s, a low point in the painter’s fortunes. However a growing consensus is beginning to form around the notion that Nulty and Markey were prescient, even prophetic figures, forging rather than following Irish art history. Markey is beginning to emerge as a founding father of Irish modernism — already valued as such by knowledgeable collectors and now (albeit more slowly) acquiring that reputation amongst critics and academics. Markey seems, at any rate, to have a “take” on the post-Cézanne world more vital and original than anything that emerged from the ateliers of the Salon Cubists or their Irish followers.
In this selection we see glimpses of such influences as Fauvism (the brilliant colour of Flowers from Many Gardens), Expressionism (the moody treatment of trees and skies in so many of his landscapes) and Cubism (Still Life, Blue). However every Markey, from the 1940s landscapes to the late flower paintings, bear his distinct mark. He offers modernism with an Irish accent, but owes less to any “ism” than to his own stubbornly original vision, melancholy or exultant mood and surroundings may have moved him.
Oliver Nulty, Markey: 30 Years at the Oriel Gallery. Dublin: Oriel Gallery, 1987.
Michael Mulreany, Markey Robinson: Maverick Spirit. Belfast: Ben Madigan Publications, 1993.