'A Piece by Patrick Kavanagh', drawing on paper
John Ryan (1925–1992) was an Irish artist, broadcaster, publisher, critic, editor, and publican.Ryan was a well-known man of letters, artist and a key figure in bohemian Dublin of the 1940s and 1950s. Founded Envoy, A Review of Literature and Art, in response to Irish trade and censorship restrictions. Friend and intimate (and sometime benefactor) to a number of struggling artists and writers in the post-war era, such as Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan; Ryan's memoirs, Remembering How We Stood, evoke literary Dublin of the period 1945-55. Involved in numerous literary events and happenings and, with Brian O'Nolan, organised the first Bloomsday.
John Ryan attended Clongowes Wood College and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin. One of the eight children of Séamus Ryan, a member of Seanad Éireann, and his wife Agnes Ryan née Harding who came from Kilfeacle and Solohead respectively in County Tipperary and who were Republican activists during the Irish War of Independence. His mother was a patron of the painter Jack Yeats, amongst others. His sister was the actress Kathleen Ryan. Several of Ryan's children followed him into the arts: son and namesake John Ryan (journalist, publisher and actor); Seamus Ryan (photographer); Anna Livia Ryan (actress).
John Ryan studied at the NCAD, but was largely a self-taught painter through a practice of 'careful intelligent observation' combined with 'a genuine and humorous love of land, sea and human tradition' (Hilary Pyle, 'John Ryan exhibition in Cork', The Irish Times, 23 October 1981). He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) from 1946 onwards, and also showed at the annual Oireachtas and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (IELA). Designed theatre sets for the Abbey, Gate, Olympia and Gaiety Theatres as well as for the stage in London. He also acted in and produced several plays.