Leonard Daley (1930-2006)

Leonard Daley - The Pickpocket (1984), Private Collection

We continue building our archives on Jamaican artists with a post on the Intuitive painter Leonard Daley. This post is adapted from the Intuitives III catalogue, biographical information from our Education Department, and a tribute by Chief Curator David Boxer which was read at Daley’s funeral.

For me, the late Leonard Daley may well have produced one of the most original and impossible-to-classify bodies of work I have ever seen. Partly abstract, partly surreal, partly realist (in its depiction of birds, snakes or plants), it is always deeply spiritual. Daley’s paintings offer a rich stew of allusions to the power of natural forces, humankind’s relationship to the animal world, primeval spirits and the irrepressible fecundity of the earth. […] Perhaps in a way closely similar to that of Everald Brown’s visionary work, Daley’s semi-abstract images tap into and evoke a sense of Jamaica’s collective cultural consciousness — its collective memory or sense of its history.

– Edward M. Gómez (Intuitives III, 2006)


The Intuitive painter Leonard Daley was born in Point Hill, St. Catherine, in 1930. He started painting some time in the 1960s but no works have been preserved from before 1979, when he first came to the attention of the local artistic community. He came to national prominence in 1987, when his work was featured in the National Gallery’s Fifteen Intuitives exhibition. While his visionary, spontaneously abstract expressionist work was well received by aficionados of outsider art and Intuitive art, it proved controversial with those in the Jamaican art world who had more mainstream, academic tastes and could not appreciate his work as “art.” Despite this mixed response, Daley’s work was widely exhibited and collected, in Jamaica and abroad and ultimately received significant critical acclaim. It was included in several other National Gallery exhibitions, such as Intuitives III (2007) and is represented in its permanent collection. Daley’s work was also included in several noteworthy overseas exhibitions, such as New World Imagery (1995), an exhibition of contemporary Jamaican art which toured in the U.K., Caribe Insular (1996), a Caribbean exhibition which toured in Spain and Germany, and Redemption Songs (1997), an exhibition of Jamaican Intuitive art which was shown in the USA. Daley lived in the Liguanea area of Kingston when his work was first discovered in 1979, and subsequently moved to the rural community of Fidler Hill in St. Catherine, where his self-built house was a work of art in  its own right with all surfaced covered with his paintings and sculptures. In the latter years of his life, he lived in the Jack’s Hill area of Kingston. He died in 2006.

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