Christopher Campbell (1908-73) was born in Dublin on 9th December 1908. He was one of a family of eight children and lived or many years at 17 Brian Road, Clontarf. His father, a carpenter, died when he was still a child. His mother acted as model for a number of his paintings. Educated by the Christian Brothers at St Mary’s Place, he chose painting as a career and had Patrick Tuohy as a teacher at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. His brother, Laurence Campbell the sculptor, also studied there.
In the period 1927-71, Campbell showed more than seventy works at the Royal Hibernian Academy. After studying stained glass in various studios, he worked for a period at Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd. ‘Christopher of Stained Glass’, a self portrait of the artist at Clarke’s, appeared at the RHA in 1937. A stained glass window is at Tiruan Church, Belmullet, Co. Mayo, and a tree-light is at Our Lady of Mercy Church, Coolock, Dublin.
In 1932 he painted a portrait of Maud Gonne. Two of his 1933 watercolours, not exhibited at the Academy, were ‘Figure of a Forest’ and ‘Beggarman’. At the 1936 RHA, ‘Brothers’ appeared. A charcoal drawing of the artist and his brother Christotpher, it was apparently a joint effort as the latter signed it too. In that year, Christopher also exhibited ‘The Sculptor Critic’, his brother, as well as five other works, including ‘The Child of Prague’, a cartoon for stained glass. Also in Dublin, he showed at the Academy of Christian Art exhibition in 1941. At the Munster Fine Art Club exhibition in 1942, he exhibited ‘The Letter’ oil.
Campbell became an art teacher and was at Kilkenny Technical School 1947-51. Between 1953 and 1969, he contributed a number of illustrations for the Capuchin Annual. According to the biographical note in the 1956-7 issue, his work had been exhibited, in addition to the RHA, in Chicago USA, Belgium and Australia, and that his masterpiece to date was ‘Conversation Piece’, portraying the Beaulieu, Drogheda.
In the period 1958-71, he showed mainly stain glass designs at the RHA. The St Catherine Laboure triptych, in bright blue and soft gold, formerly at the Vincentian College, Blackrock, is now at Celbridge, Co. Kildare. ‘Stations of the Cross’ are at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and County Hospital, Kilkenny. A crayon drawing of Michael Shortall is in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art collection. ‘Self Portrait: the Artist and his sister’, oil, is at the Ulster Museum.
In 1976, the Neptune Gallery, Dublin, presented what was probably the first one-person show ever arranged for this artist. Works were in oils, crayon, red chalk, watercolour, pastel, pencil and charcoal. Bruce Arnold best summed up the artist in a catalogue introduction, where he described him as “Introverted, self conscious, shy, dominated by his Mother, overshadowed by his brother, unsuccessful in selling his work, increasingly bewildered in the direction he was going, yet with a firm and lasting belief in his basic skills and his vision, Christopher Campbell presents himself an enigmatic figure in Irish Art”.
In November 2018, Sotheby’s, London, sold a self portrait oil painting entitled “The Vagabond” by the artist for a hammer price of stg£56,250