Tuohy, Patrick Joseph (1894–1930), painter, was born 27 February 1894 at 77 Lower Dorset St., Dublin, one of three children of John Joseph Tuohy, surgeon, of 15 North Frederick St., and Máire Tuohy (née Murphy), a native of Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, and member of several nationalist organisations, including Cumann na mBan. After early education by the Christian Brothers in Dublin, owing to his parents’ nationalist beliefs he was one of the first pupils to enter St Enda's college, the progressive, bilingual school opened by Patrick Pearse (qv) in 1908, where he studied art under the direction of Pearse's brother, the sculptor William Pearse (qv). Tuohy received early recognition of his artistic talent. His early drawings, including a watercolour sketch, ‘In Co. Wicklow’, featured in the school magazine An Macaomh in 1909. Two of his early pen-and-ink drawings, ‘The flight of Cuchulainn’ and ‘Entry into battle’, completed while he was a student at St Enda's, are held in the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. After attending night classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (DMSA), he became a full time student there, being taught for five years by William Orpen (qv), who encouraged his practice of life drawing and understanding of human anatomy. ‘Girl in a white pinafore’ (1910) represented an early expression of his talent for portraiture. In 1911 he exhibited three paintings at the Small Concert Rooms, Dublin, alongside such established artists as Jack B. Yeats (qv) and George Russell (qv). Spending the summer of 1911 in Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo, he began sketches for ‘A Mayo peasant boy’ (1912), which, as a realistic and direct portrayal of human vulnerability, foreshadowed distinctive features of his later artistic method and concerns.
Receiving his first commission in 1913, he executed ten ceiling paintings representing the life of Christ for the Jesuit order at Rathfarnham castle, Co. Dublin. He subsequently completed ceiling paintings for Dublin's La Scala theatre (later, the Capitol cinema). His watercolour ‘Supper time’, for which he won the Taylor art scholarship in 1912, was acclaimed for its depiction of personality and character. ‘The little seamstress’ (1914), for which he won a 1915 Taylor award, was a watercolour portrait of his frequently used model, the future sculptor May Power (1904–93), daughter of sculptor Albert G. Power (qv). These and other prizes enabled Tuohy to travel to Spain in 1916; during a year in Madrid, he taught painting in the Loreto convent, and studied the masterpieces at the Prado, especially the works of Zurbarán and Velázquez. In 1918 he began to exhibit at the RHA, showing ‘The Wicklow labourer’ and ‘A Mayo peasant boy’, and continued to exhibit there till 1927. His painting ‘The agony in the garden’ (c.1919) for the Loreto convent on North Great George's St., Dublin, was later transferred to the church of Christ the King, Cabra. A pencil sketch entitled ‘Portrait study’ was reproduced in The book of Saint Ultan: a collection of pictures and poems by Irish artists and writers, edited by Katherine MacCormack (1920).
Tuohy taught life class (1920–26) at the DMSA with Seán Keating (qv), his students including Norah McGuinness (qv), Maurice MacGonigal (qv), and Hilda van Stockum. His ‘Standing female nude’ and ‘Self-portrait with two women’ were influenced by the French realist tradition. The former, a detached study of an unselfconscious subject, hearkens to the nude muse in Courbet's famed painting, ‘The artist's studio’ (1855). It was among Tuohy's paintings included in ‘L'Art irlandais’, an exhibition at the Galerie Barbazange in Paris in 1922, organised by Maud Gonne MacBride (qv) to celebrate the newly established Irish state. One of his most influential works, ‘The baptism of Christ’, exhibited at the RHA in 1923, and now in the Ulster Museum, was a large-scale decorative composition incorporating portraits of fellow artists, including Keating as John the Baptist, Thomas MacGreevy (qv) as a kneeling onlooker, Seán O'Sullivan (qv), and Phyllis Moss, an art student who later became Tuohy's fiancée. Stylistically the work was influenced by the flat-colour technique of Puvis de Chavannes, whose works Tuohy had studied on visits to Paris. Awarded a silver medal at the 1924 Aonach Tailteann exhibition, the painting was then exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1925. During the summer of 1923 Tuohy visited Italy on a study tour with Moss, and returned to the country the following year. He was commissioned by James Joyce (qv) in 1923 to paint a portrait of the latter's father, John Stanislaus Joyce (qv). While in Paris in 1924 on his return trip from Italy, he executed a portrait of James Joyce (now in State University of New York, Buffalo), persuading the novelist to pose for twenty-eight sittings. Though he subsequently painted Joyce's children, Giorgio and Lucia, relations between the two men were difficult, and Joyce portrayed him in Finnegans wake (1939) as ‘Ratatuohy’.
During the early 1920s Tuohy painted many portraits of theatre personalities, including Ria Mooney (qv) (1922), Padraic Colum (qv) (1924), and Seán O'Casey (qv) (1926). Elected an associate of the RHA in 1924, he became a member in 1925. He was a member of the Radical club in 1926. Seeking a more ample income that would allow him to marry, he emigrated to America in 1927; he lived in South Carolina for a time before moving to New York, where he had a studio at 440 Riverside Dr., and devoted his work to portraiture. He exhibited at the Carnegie Institute exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1927, and helped organise the first contemporary exhibition of Irish art at the Hackett gallery, NY (1929), where he showed a portrait of James Stephens (qv) and ‘Portrait of a girl in a striped dress’, both of which were acclaimed as illuminating and honest representations of character. The exhibition was subsequently transferred to the Grace Holmes gallery, Boston. He was a founder of the Irish University Club in NY, and lectured on Irish art and literature to the Irish reading circle in 1929.
Tuohy was a small, dapper man, with black hair and a clipped red moustache. Born without a left hand, he wore a metal prosthesis (habitually covered with a black glove), which allowed him to hold a palette as he painted. Remembered for a short temper and sharp tongue, but as an effective teacher, ‘he had a perfection in his own mind which he never reached, so he was often despondent’ (van Stockum, Ir. Times, 16 Mar. 1985). On 28 August 1930 he was found dead in his NY studio, as a result of asphyxiation from gas poisoning. Though he suffered from fits of depression, his sister Bride and the actress Ria Mooney both were adamant that he had not committed suicide. His body was returned to Ireland on the Scythia liner, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery. Two unfinished portraits, of the actor Dudley Digges (qv) and the actress Claudette Colbert, were found in his studio after his death. A memorial exhibition of Tuohy's paintings, sketches, and drawings, dating from 1911 to 1930, was held in Mills’ Hall, Dublin, in 1931. Two of his paintings, ‘Near the Bull Wall’ (1912) and ‘Portrait of Dominic Bowe’ (c.1915), were shown at a major exhibition of Irish painting at the Gorry gallery, Molesworth St., Dublin, in 1985. Tuohy's papers are in the NGI.