Although Brian O’Doherty has engaged with multiple concepts of identity throughout his career, he is best known for inventing the persona of Patrick Ireland in 1972, partially in response to the Bloody Sunday killings that year in Northern Ireland. “Patrick Ireland” created richly conceptual works of art for thirty-six years, until O’Doherty symbolically killed and buried him in 2008.
O’Doherty moved from Ireland to the United States for a medical fellowship at Harvard in 1957. Although he had previously been drawing and painting, at this time he determined to leave the medical profession and work in the visual arts. Transitional Head, a rare self-portrait painting, dates from that year of personal change. The artist used bars of pigment to define the picture plane and deny the apparent three-dimensionality of the painted head.