Darragh A. Park III


Died April 17, 2009

College: Calhoun

Darragh Park was a roommate of mine at Yale, a fellow French major—he liked Proust, I liked Zola—and lifelong friend.

After graduation, Darragh taught English in a private school in Sierra Leone, an experience which triggered an interest, and later graduate study at Columbia, of African art and culture.

When Darragh returned to America, he came to terms with his being gay. He let his life style evolve, quit his job, and began studying painting under the tutelage of the Long Island painter, Robert Dash. Through Dash, he became part of a circle of artists and writers based in Manhattan and the Hamptons. One particular friend of his in this group was the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, James Schuyler, for whom he illustrated several book covers and eventually became his literary executor.

Darragh’s early artwork was strongly influenced by the landscape painter, Fairfield Porter, whom he knew and who, after viewing his paintings, offered him encouragement. Darragh’s focus shifted from landscapes to cityscapes, especially panoramic scenes in Miami and street scenes with pedestrians and traffic in Manhattan. One especially successful series of paintings was of the Empire State Building, which he painted at different times of day and night and in changing illuminations.

Darragh had a series of successful shows at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York. Alfred Corn, reviewing a 1994 show of his in Artnews, wrote, “There are few things more satisfying than witnessing a moment in the development of an artist when she or he takes a quantum leap into uncharted territory and surprises us with a new sense of mastery.” The leap referred to was Darragh’s new painterly attention to physical vision. He was intrigued by how the eye sees both small areas in sharp focus and blurred abstractions in sight’s periphery. Interpreting this visual phenomenon in his paintings became almost an obsession. The forms in a painting would slide from abstraction to realism and back again. His last works became so large in their dimensions as to be hard fit in standard gallery settings.

When Darragh moved from Manhattan to Bridgehampton, Long Island, another creative expression emerged: landscaping and gardening. He built a pond, put in a variety of native plantings, and developed a network of pathways through the luxuriant vegetation. Wildlife thrived in this environment. Darragh cared for every tree, bush, and flower as if it were a personal friend and kept knew all the birds that came and went through the seasons. In a letter to me one February, he wrote:

“My companions, this year, are the gold finches, now dusky gold, who have chosen to hang in here to my huge delight. Watching their loping Matissian flight pattern as they pass in front of me is a constant lift. A flicker family is in residence, most awe-inspiring. The big tree with its ghost-like great gray bones is often studded with cardinals. Visitors gasp!”

I have many memories of Darragh Park but perhaps the most vivid was zooming through the empty streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn on the back of his motorcycle on a cold mid-winter Sunday morning en route to Coney Island.

In his last several years, Darragh’s mind and health began to fail and it became increasingly difficult for him to manage his daily life and needs. When the situation worsened, he came to what must be the most difficult and misfortunate decision some people face: to continue living or not. On April 17, 2009, he chose the latter.

—by David Grant Noble


Darragh A. Park died on April 17, 2009 at his home in Bridgehampton. He was 69. Born in 1939 to Darragh and Sallie Mellon Park, he attended St. Mark/Es School and graduated from Yale University. After working as a teacher in Sierra Leone in Africa, he returned to the United States and worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, D.C. He studied painting with artist Robert Dash and launched his own career as an artist, with his work garnering positive reviews in many art journals and shown extensively at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City. He is survived by a brother, James M. Park and his wife Elizabeth of Amenia, New York; two nieces, Eleanor Hartwell of Missouri and Darcy Hogan of Massachusetts; and six great-nieces and great-nephews. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the O’Connell Funeral Home in Southampton.