Roderic O'conor was born into one of Ireland's most weathly and distinquished families. He attended an exclusive private school in England where he excelled and his path as a Victorian gentleman was set from an early age. It was a shock when he
wanted to enroll at the Metropolitan School of Art, in Dublin, and at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp. After graduating he went to Paris and remained in France the rest of his life. He moved in all the right circles, befriending and exhibiting along side Renior, Van Gogh, and Gauguin. He left Paris for an artist community on the coast of Brittany , where he became a member of the Pont-Aven circle of avant-garde artists, including Paul Gauguin. He was invited by Gauguin to accompany him back to the South Seas and Samoa but he chose instead the South of France, another rural haven in France for painters, who were attracted by the greater intensity of light and color. In 1913 O'Conor moved to Cassis, a small Mediterranean fishing town hedged in on the seaward side by rocky inlets and high cliffs. Here he rented an old villa and spent one of the most productive period of his career.
As an ex-pat, he did not figure into any particular culture and was almost forgotten in Ireland until the latter part of the last century. He did little to promote himself and led a quiet life and was eclipsed by more colorful artists like Van Gogh and Gauguin. As the saying goes, “well-behaved women seldom make history,” applies equally to male artists.
During his lifetime the income from his estate in Ireland ensured that he never had to paint for a living. He was very generous and supportive of fellow artists and often bought their work. O’Conor appears to have disliked dealers and is reported to have found the idea of selling his work abhorrent. Therefore, very little of his work was sold during his lifetime. The majority of his work now in circulation can be traced to the studio auction held after his wife’s death in 1955. Interest in the event at the time centered on the sale of the artist’s impressive private collection, which included works by Bonnard, Modigliani, Gauguin, Derain and Toulouse Lautrec. O’Conor’s works were simply numbered, stamped and auctioned off; many in unframed and unstretched multiple lots. Henry Roland, a London art dealer was in Paris and by chance viewed the auction that day. Roland was immediately struck by O’Conor’s work. He later wrote of having been “overwhelmed by its beauty”, describing the paintings as “absolutely wonderful pictures.” By the end of the afternoon, he had acquired over 120 works by the artist. It was this acquisition that was ultimately to bring O’Conor from a position of relative obscurity to being known as Ireland's greatest painter.While influenced in the early days by his contemporaries, he developed his own distinctive style and became a master of color. Several of his landscape paintings are among the most beautiful and accomplished in art history.
His work is included in Ulster museum National Gallery of Ireland, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, The Tate Museum in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Musee D'Orsay as well in several regional galleries in France.