John O’Reilly (American, 1930-2021)

O’Reilly is known for photomontages combining themes of religion, history, literature, art, and homosexuality. He spent most of his life in Worcester, Massachusetts as an art therapist and discovered his passion for making art later in life—a talent that he only shared with his friends. In order to create his photomontages, O’Reilly would photograph images from history books and magazines for collages. Disparate elements in his work morph into one another, fashioning a distorted yet unified world composed of fragments. Often, O’Reilly appears in his own images as well as includes fragments of other famous artists’ self-portraits, commenting on his connections to his works’ subject matter and theme.
An article in The New York Times described O’Reilly as “one of our greatest living artists of mysterious, erudite, and confounding photomontages.” He received his BFA from Syracuse University and MFA from the School of the Arts in Chicago. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Worcester Museum of Art; and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover.