Artist Robert Ballagh RHA has received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature to celebrate his lifetime's achievements in the arts. The prolific artist whose paintings are held in collections including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Ulster Museum, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, and the Albrecht Dürer House, Nuremberg, was honoured by University College Dublin last night.
The artist has also designed more than 70 stamps for An Post and the last set of banknotes prior to the introduction of the euro. His iconic portrait of James Joyce standing on Sandymount Beach with Howth in the background hung in the foyer of O'Reilly Hall where he was receiving his degree. "It's a great honour and it's a bit of a joy for me," he said. "I've been involved, obviously all my professional career in the visual arts, but this is an honorary doctorate in literature and I've always been passionate about literature and particularly Irish literature, so to get an award like this is a great thrill."
The artist was friends with poet Seamus Heaney having worked with him on a project for St Joesph's School for the Visually Impaired in Drumcondra, Dublin two years ago. "He was a hugely generous man, friendly and humorous," he said. "Apart from the poetry he'll be hugely missed by all who knew him. "Eamonn Ceannt, director of capital development at the university, praised the artist's eye for detail evident in his work. "The attention to detail and intimate knowledge of his sitters are a hallmark of Robert's portrait work," he said. "His work is at once perfect in its detail and expressive in its storytelling."