William Conor OBE RHA PPRUA ROI (1881–1968) was a Belfast-born artist.
Celebrated for his warm and sympathetic portrayals of working-class life in Ulster, William Conor studied at the Government School of Design in Belfast in the 1890s. His artistic talents were recognized at the early age of ten when a teacher of music noticed the merit of his chalk drawings and arranged for him to attend the College of Art.
On finishing his studies at the College of Art he became apprenticed to David Allen and Sons a firm of lithographers where he worked in the poster design department. Although he had become skilled in a trade, he did not want to spend his life working in a lithographic firm.
Conor left David Allen to pursue a career as an artist. Also around this time there were sketching trips made to Ardara and Kinlough in Co. Donegal. Sometime during 1912 /1913 Conor made his way to Paris, studying the Dutch and Italian masters and learning the craft of representational painting. However he found it difficult to survive financially in Paris and returned home after six months.
Following the outbreak of WWI in 1914 William Conor was commissioned by the British government to produce official records of soldiers and munitions workers.
He moved to London in 1920 and there met and socialised with such artists as Sir John Lavery and Augustus John. He exhibited at the RA in 1921 and in Dublin at the RHA from 1918–1967, showing there nearly 200 works.
Conor was one of the first Academicians when the Belfast Art Society became the Ulster Academy of Arts in 1930. He became an Associate RHA in 1938 and a full member in 1946. Exhibitions at the Victor Waddington Galleries were held in 1944 and 1948. In 1952 he was awarded the OBE and in 1957 he was elected President of the RUA – an office he held until 1964. More on William Conor
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