Sam Walsh was born in Enniscorthy in Ireland in 1934. He attended Dublin College of Art and in 1955 he moved to London. He spent five years drifting between jobs and playing the guitar professionally. He also produced portraits and murals and exhibited work at the ICA. In 1960 he visited Liverpool and stayed. In 1962, at the opening of their joint exhibition at London's influential Portal Gallery, Walsh and his fellow Liverpool artist Adrian Henri were introduced to Francis Bacon by the musician, painter and raconteur George Melly, who had just bought the first of several paintings by Walsh.
Walsh began a teacher-training course in Liverpool and continued to show his work around England, sharing wall space with the likes of Peter Blake, David Hockney and Patrick Hughes. At this time, Adrian Henri described him as a �portrait painter for money and an abstract painter for love.� In 1963 this painting was selected for the John Moores exhibition at the Walker. It was purchased for the collection and was later joined by 'Three Figures in a Warm Climate' (c1965) and 'Emmett Dalton in Hollywood' (1965).
The artistic influences upon Walsh were diverse and included Cranach, Klee, Bacon and Rembrandt together with Larry Rivers and Theodore Sturgeon. Although producing local and regional scenes, including landscapes, and some interiors, the human face dominated his output, paying homage to the celebrities of the day: Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe), Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, J Edgar Hoover and Mao Tse Tung.
His portraits, many of them commissions, were, like this portrait of Bacon, distinctive for their up-front, cut-out treatment of the subjects' faces and for their isolation against a sparse, anonymous and ambiguous background. Stylistically, his work of this period is reminiscent of the early work of Hockney and Blake with the brash, large-scale imagery and vivid colours of the pop art movement under the influence of popular culture and commercial advertising, especially photographic ephemera.
During the 1970s, Walsh now an established talent, modified his paint-handling and adopted spray-painting .He made portraits of Simone de Beauvoir, Ivon Hitchens, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri, responses to Old Masters and a series of anthropomorphic wild animal subjects. The final decade of Walsh's life, during which he was less prolific, was still successful.
He had group and two-man shows (although he exhibited less locally) and his portrait of 'Samuel Beckett' was shown at the National Portrait Gallery. He also created one of his most complex works, 'The Dinner Party' (1980), a bold and detailed assembly of sitters from all periods of his life, including his neighbour, solicitor, ex-wife, partner, bank manager, and friends and contemporaries Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Maurice Cockrill. The composition, a series of heads posed in recessional profile along two sides of a table, was inspired by Millais's 'Isabella' in the collection of the Walker.
Sam Walsh died in Liverpool in 1989 aged 55.