“Veronica Bolay RHA (1941-2020) was born in Hamburg Germany, a war baby. One of her first memories was being carried, as a two-year-old, on her mother’s shoulder to an air raid shelter during Operation Gomorrah, a bombing of Hamburg designed to destroy German morale and end the war.
She and her mother fled to her grandmother’s farm in the county of Mecklenburg, where they were safer. A couple of years later, post war, they needed to flee again, this time back to Hamburg as there was talk of Germany being divided and Mecklenburg being under Russia. This was wintertime and they had to start their 240 km journey by foot, sleeping sometimes in the shelter of ditches in a frost covered countryside. Once they reached Hamburg a ‘normal’ post war life began. Veronica’s mother went to Holland for work, Veronica lived with her Grandmother and an uncle in one room of a house as their own Hamburg home had been destroyed during operation Gomorrah. Veronica went to school, then art college where, due to the practical nature of a post war sensibility she was persuaded to study theatrical costume design, fine art would have been too impractical a prospect.
Post college Veronica worked in Costume design in Cuxhaven for a number of years, where she met and married her husband, Peter Jankowsky.
Veronica and Peter settled in Ireland in 1971 and the 30-year-old Veronica could start her preferred life as a fine artist. Securing early shows in the Setanta Gallery, the Lad Lane, Lincoln and Grafton Galleries she immersed herself in the blossoming artistic community of Dublin in the 70’s and 80’s, exhibiting her work in the Independent Artists annual exhibition and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. Her work formed part of a pioneering 1978 exhibition of women artists held in the Project gallery in Dublin, where she exhibited with, among others, Camille Souter and the late Mary Farl Powers.
In 1991 she started exhibiting with the Rubicon Gallery, was elected ARHA in 1996 and elected full RHA in 2002. She was elected to Aosdána in 2006. In 2007 she began exhibiting with The Paul Kane Gallery on Merrion Square. Veronica began spending more and more time in her beloved Mayo, the inspiration for many of her paintings and bought a house there, immersing herself fully in the local artistic community. She served on the board of the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar for many years. Over her career Veronica won many prestigious awards including the Maurice McGonigal prize, the Keating McLoughlin medal, the James Adams Salesroom award and the Liam Walsh award.
Veronica’s most significant legacies are the contributions she made, as an outsider, to the evolution of the contemporary Irish art scene and, of course, her work itself, which is treasured in many public and private collections.”
‘Elemental. An Appreciation of the Extraordinary Life and Work of Veronica Bolay RHA’ is presented by the Office of Public Works, in association with The Paul Kane Gallery and on display in the Coach House Gallery, Dublin Castle from 20th October 2022 – 19th March 2023.
Veronica Boley RHA, Woman at Rough Point (detail), Oil on Canvas, 100cm x 100cm, image courtesy of The Paul Kane Gallery
Veronica Boley RHA, Vapour Trails, Oil on Canvas, 90cm x 90cm, image courtesy of The Paul Kane Gallery