Niamh Butler was born and raised in Montrose, New York; throughout her years there, she was consistently inspired to capture the intriguing inhabitants and objects of the world around her in a variety of media, often using photographs of people far removed as reference. As a young adult, she received special acceptance into the Westchester Community College Art Workshop to study under artist Andrew Lattimore, who recommended traditional training at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut. During her subsequent studies there, her work was included in various exhibitions at galleries in New York, Connecticut, and other Northeastern states, as well as awarded the Grand Prize for VSA Arts’ “Accelerate” Competition, which included a group exhibition debut at the Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. In 2011, she received her B.F.A. in Drawing from the Lyme Academy and moved to Italy to complete the Intensive Drawing Program at the Florence Academy of Art.
Throughout years of study, the focus on rendered tone and detail has been a constant in Butler’s work, whether it was created from life or from her own reference photographs. She came to favor a combination of black colored pencil and charcoal for drawings, and oil on panel for paintings, as her preferred media, and developed distinct methods of production. When working from her own reference photographs, after making initial decisions to change certain aspects of the piece while using the photo, she will obsessively measure and re-measure parts, as well as focus on creating smooth textures and transitions, to achieve accuracy in rendering the subject and to reach a kind of meditative state. She also obtains such a state while working from life, though the process involves more awareness of rhythms within the subject and interpretation of the live subject to enhance the feeling of space and atmosphere in the piece. In every case, Butler’s approach to capturing or recreating what she perceives to be a beautiful moment makes the instance far more meaningful. If the subject is a person, her method also allows her to feel as if she is getting to know that person in a way unlike any other.
Butler currently lives and works in Florence, Italy and is represented by the Salmagundi Club in New York.