Brian Bourke was born in Dublin in 1936 and studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and St. Martin's School of Art, London. He lives and works in Galway with his wife, the painter Jay Murphy.
From early landscapes and life-size nude self-portraits, Bourke's work has evolved to encompass various series that explore his interest in observational work - rooted in the places and things he encounters in his day-to-day life - and fictional narrative. There is often an element of imaginary biography in his work, which has seen the artist compare himself to literary characters such as Sweeney and Don Quixote in various guises. As well as portraits of people and places, his paintings include expressive still lifes reminiscent of memento mori that feature recurring objects such as masks, animal skulls and African carvings, ink and wash drawings on paper, and painted wood carvings.
Brian Bourke represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale and the Lugano Exhibition of Graphics in 1965. He has received several high-profile awards, including the O'Malley Award from the Irish-American Cultural Institute in 1993. He is an elected a member of Aosdána and an Honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. His work has been exhibited widely in solo and gourp exhibitions in Ireland and abroad. In 1992, Bourke was Artist in Residence at the Gate Theatre during the Beckett Festival and the work resulting from this residency was shown at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. His work is included in public and private collections in Ireland and beyond