John Sheehan (29th July – 3rd June 1996) was born on the Upper East Side, New York. At 12 years old he enrolled in the The Mechanics Institute, since at 5″ 10 he was tall enough to lie about his age. Later, in life his family remember John saying, ‘If someone small enters the room sit down.’
Whilst at The Mechanics Institute Sheehan studied drawing, both technical and life drawing. He graduated at 16, becoming the youngest graduate in the school’s history. His mother had plans for him to become an investment banker, although John had other ideas. He left the security of his family to pursue his passion for art and in his early 20’s shared a studio with Jackson Pollock.
What followed was the Great Depression (August 1929 – March 1933), a time when it was next to impossible to find work as an Artist. In 1933 Sheehan met Franz Kline, who was to become a lifelong friend defined by mutual respect and a shared love of art. The pair almost immediately began collaborating on murals for night clubs (the Jungle Room) in Greenwich Village. They also drew caricatures near the West 4th Street subway entrance on Bleeker Street. At the time they were the only two painters who didn’t go on the WPA, the Work Project Administration which employed jobseekers in public work projects; Kline received a small stipend from his family and John was too stubborn to sign something that said ‘I couldn’t earn a living as an Artist.’
Sheehan’s studio was on 27 West 8th St (Manhattan), above a Chinese Restaurant. It was his studio for over 50 years. John designed and built the furniture for his apartment during the 1940’s. In 1952 Look Magazine nominated his studio as ‘The Apartment of the Year.’ Sheehan’s dining room chairs were exhibited at M.O.M.A in 1952. Subsequently Andy Kaufman, an American comedian commissioned them for one of America’s most celebrated buildings, Fallingwater House designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1982 John Sheehan, moved with Chris and his wife Teresa to Ireland. Chris began to work with John on paintings and work from this period are unmistakably a source of inspiration for Chris’ later work.