Charles McAuley was born in 1910 on a small farm in Glenaan, County Antrim. He attended Belfast School of Art but only for a few weeks, finding it difficult to adjust to city life. Returning to the Glens, he continued to paint.
In 1929, McAuley won the premier award for Celtic Design when the adjudicator was James Humbert Craig. Reflecting on this encounter, McAuley said Craig had ‘a great influence on me and I suppose was really responsible for my turning into a professional artist.’ On a suggestion by Craig, McAuley proceeded to send some of his paintings to the Royal Hibernian Academy, which were accepted. He began to paint professionally when he was twenty-eight.
John Hewitt said ‘… it became increasingly evident that as a Glensman born and bred he should take the landscape as his own terrain inhabited by folk he knew and belonged to. His growing awareness was not merely graphic but demographic. This has made him for me the authentic regional artist, the painter who belongs to and finds his themes in a known place.’
McAuley’s first solo exhibition was at the Master’s Hang Gallery, Ballymena and today many of his works are included in public collections, like the Ulster Museum, and also many private collections.