Tony Fitzpatrick (b. 1958) is a renowned Chicago artist who began his career drawing with pastels on slate board in a Villa Park storefront while working two jobs. He began getting his first gallery shows in the mid-1980s.
One of the few notable modern artists who legitimately qualifies as self-taught, Fitzpatrick’s work is as iconoclastic as it is personal. Chicago artist Ed Paschke described Fitzpatrick’s art as autobiographical, noting that “it’s in the true spirit of what art is all about. It is an extension of him.”
Fitzpatrick is also an award-winning stage and screen actor and a published poet, but it is his “outsider” art and captivating personal background – a former boxer and bouncer, Fitzpatrick served time in prison for car theft – for which he is best known.
Fitzpatrick’s art provides an often violent, but quintessentially American, look at the darker side of life. His art typically blends cartoon-like drawings with found images such as matchbooks and old signs. He has repeatedly explored bird imagery, as well as other animal figures. He also explores boxing, which serves as a metaphor for life’s struggle as well as the struggle of making art.
Antiheroes figure prominently in his art, from monsters and devils to fallen figures such as boxer Mike Tyson or a powerful bull weeping underneath a crown of thorns. The combination of such macabre components with commonplace found images yields artwork that is both darkly prophetic and clearly nostalgic.
The artist has done cover art for numerous albums, including by Lou Reed, Steve Earle, and the Neville Brothers. He won a Jefferson Award (Chicago’s top theater award) for Best Actor for his portrayal of killer James Huberty in a play he wrote, Mass Murderer, and has also appeared in the motion pictures Philadelphia, Primal Fear, Married to the Mob, Hero, and U.S. Marshalls, as well as the television series E.R. and Homicide: Life on the Street.
Fitzpatrick’s work resides in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.
Additionally, his work resides in the private collections of many of Hollywood’s top actors, including Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, and Martin Scorcese.