The second of four children, Patrick Collins was born in 1911, in Dromana West, Co. Sligo. His mother was Mary Patricia McLoughlin, from Co. Cavan, who had married Mayo-born William Collins, a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary. When Patrick was four years old, his father contracted tuberculosis and had to retire from the police force. Patrick´s younger sister Mary died, and he himself contracted pneumonia. The family moved to Sligo town, where his mother ran a small grocery store. Suffering from spells of ill-health, his mother unable to cope, Patrick was sent as a boarding student to St. Vincent´s Orphanage, Glasnevin, Co. Dublin. After leaving school, he worked for twenty years for an insurance company in Dublin, attending evening classes at NCAD, and studying life drawing under George Collie.
Around 1945, Collins became a full-time painter, living in a tower in the grounds of Howth Castle, which became a gathering place for artists and writers, including his friend Aidan Higgins. In 1950, inspired by Joyce´s Ulysses, Collins painted Stephen Hero. He first exhibited in the Irish Exhibition of Living Art that same year, and continued to show his atmospheric, misty paintings with the ILEA for around twenty years. Collins exhibited at the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery from 1956 onwards. His first Tinker painting, now in the Ulster Museum, dates from the following year. Liffey Quaysides (National Gallery of Ireland) was awarded a prize at the Guggenheim International, New York, also in 1957. Inspired by the megalithic tombs of Brittany and Ireland, in the early 1960´s Collins exhibited a number of ‘menhir´ paintings.
In 1971 Collins moved to France, where he lived on very slender means, sharing a studio for a time with Leopoldo Novoa. “I knew everyone in Ireland that painted, I knew their opinions, and I wanted to get away and look at things from outside.” [The artist in conversation with Des Moore, quoted in Frances Ruane Patrick Collins, p. 67] The resulting paintings were shown at the David Hendriks Gallery in June 1972. The following year he moved to Normandy, where he stayed for three years, before settling in a village near Nice. After six years in France, Collins returned to Ireland, to live at Kindelstown House in Delgany. Elected an honorary member of the RHA in 1980, he received an Arts Council bursary that same year, and the following year was elected a member of Aosdana. He died in 1994 in Monkstown, Dublin.
From an early age, Collins was interested in the natural world, and elements of woodlands, birds and lakes appear frequently in his paintings, which are also characterized by an exquisite sense of colour, with pale tints of blues, grey or pinks, sensitively applied, sometimes with slight impasto, or as thin washes of colour. The atmosphere created is one of extraordinary delicacy, akin to Fragonard. The watery environment represented in the painting Bog Pool corresponds with the idea of ‘inner space´ which interested Collins. Frances Ruane points out that Collins was never interested in a literal representation of a subject. “He worked more like a poet, condensing, abstracting and interpreting fragments from memory.”