Country’s last court sketch artist says Gerard Hutch was ‘perfect subject’

Mike O’Donnell staging exhibition of his work in Listowel, Co Kerry

St John’s Theatre in Listowel, Co Kerry drew a large crowd on Saturday for the opening of an exhibition centring on Gerard Hutch by Mike O’Donnell, the last court sketch artist working in Ireland.

Released, the title portrait of Mr Hutch, was jointly unveiled by the artist and film director Jim Sheridan. It carries a price tag of €100,000.

The exhibition, which includes portraits of several crime figures, has been criticised on social media, the opening heard.

Mr Sheridan, who launched the exhibition, said the public relied on court artists to “convey the emotion” of a case.


The Field director

said he had known Hutch “very well”. They had both lived in Sherriff Street and afterwards in Ballybough.

Mike O’Donnell, the artist, said some of his subjects were willing, while others were not so willing.

Gerard Hutch fell into the first category, inviting him to paint his portrait after observing his work in court.

“I just happened to find myself in his sittingroom on a Sunday afternoon. I was very pleased and privileged. He was the perfect subject,” he said.

He said Martin Ferris, the former Sinn Féin TD and another subject, was similarly gracious. He had been “very accommodating” in his home in Churchill, the artist said.

Mr O’Donnell said he had received “quite a bit of stick” about his work because of its focus on the criminal world. But he said its purpose was “to move minds and spirits and get people to empathise” with those he was trying to represent.

This is the first public exhibition of his court work. Some 20 of the 28 sketches are of Hutch, including several completed during a two hour sitting in Hutch’s Dublin home. He said he and Hutch “got on great”.

The portrait of Martin Ferris, titled I am Captain of my Soul, has a price tag of €15,000.

Other sketches include a study from the jury box of the sentencing of Jozef Puska for the murder of Ashling Murphy titled Away with Him. It has a price tag of €7,500.

Members of the legal profession, including senior counsels Brendan Grehan and Roisín Lacey, also feature.

Released will run for the month of February in St John’s Theatre in Listowel, Co Kerry.

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