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"Energetic, Irish, newsman and painter. He is a stimulating person in the Delaware Valley Art Life."
-William F. Taylor
A modernist painter, Peter J. Keenan also worked as a cartoonist and journalist. A native of Ireland, he served as a captain in the Royal Irish Rifles during World War I and knew James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and J.B. Yeats. In 1922 he moved to the United States, settling in Bucks County. Keenan was a part of the original group of New Hope modernists known as the Independents, painting murals and portraits with the group. A sports cartoonist for the Philadelphia Bulletin, Keenan's widely circulated freelance cartoons could be found in magazines from the Farm Journal to the Saturday Evening Post. He also sketched the Lindbergh kidnapping trial of Bruno Hauptmann for sixty-seven newspapers.
Keenan actively supported the New Hope artistic community. During the Great Depression, he fought hard for the area to receive a fair allotment of WPA funds and served as a local director of the Public Works Art Project of the WPA. As founding publisher and editor of the New Hope magazine, he was instrumental in further establishing the importance of the new art colony in the eyes of the art world.
Education and Training
Royal Hibernian Academy, Ireland
Slade School of Art, University of London, Army scholarship, 1916-1920
Connection to Bucks County
Peter Keenan moved to New Hope in 1932, where he lived on the canal above Center Bridge. He was a part of the original group of New Hope modernist painters known as the Independents. Keenan was very active in supporting the New Hope artistic community. During the Great Depression, he fought hard for the area to receive a fair allotment of WPA funds and served as a local director of the Public Works Art Project of the WPA. As founding publisher and editor of the New Hope magazine, he was instrumental in further establishing the importance of the new art colony in the eyes of the art world. After a seven-year return to Ireland in the 1940s, Keenan moved back to Bucks county, living in Doylestown until 1950, when he returned to New Hope.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Keenan's friends included Ralston Crawford, Henry Baker, Robert Hogue, R.A.D. Miller, Charles Evans, C.F. Ramsey and other artists who were members of the Independents. Keenan was one of the original members of the Independents, a modernist group that evolved in 1932 out of the secessionist organization The New Group that had formed in 1930 as a response to the conservatism of the impressionists and their juried shows. Keenan founded the New Hope magazine in 1933 and published twelve issues between August 1933 and October 1934. The magazine was instrumental in providing information about the modernist movement in New Hope to the art world in New York, and further establishing New Hope's importance as an art colony in Bucks County. He was also the local director of the WPA art project.
Major Group Exhibitions
Initial Independents Exhibit, New Hope, Pennsylvania 1933
Little International Show, Mellon Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1933
Four New Hope Painters, Mellon Galleries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1934
50th Anniversary Retrospective Art Exhibition, Phillips' Mill, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1979
The New Hope Modernists 1917-1950, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania 1991
Mural, Cardiff University of the Prince of Wales, England
Memorials for the governments of Australia, Canada, Britain, and France
Worked for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and numerous trade magazines
Founded The New Hope magazine, 1933-1934
Prix de Rome Scholarship, 1922