For over three decades, Paul Rahilly has been exhibiting his lush, painterly works in shows that have been received with delight by enthusiasts of painting. Writing in the Boston Globe in 1991, Nancy Stapen said, "Rahilly's art is almost sinful; it is an art of movement, light, and delight, where all aspects of nature are sensually proffered for the viewer's pleasure."
Rahilly is often called a realist, but the term doesn’t fit well for a few reasons. The figures typically at the center of his large works, female nudes or livestock or both, are generally set in situations so odd or fantastic – beneath towered castles, under absurdly gnarled trees, picnicking beside a mausoleum – that their world is more aptly termed surrealist, or fabulist.
In terms of pictorial execution, Rahilly loves few things more than blurring the edges between one thing and its neighbor, so that it’s impossible to see the boundary between, for example, a leg and a tree trunk or a duck’s wing and the plastic gas can behind it. So what he’s doing, at bottom is painting, and the images are no more important or meaningful in his work than the lines or the color or the clusters and swoops of delectably fluid paint. It’s the visually provocative surface he’s after, not the narrative, and in a sense, that’s more abstract than it is realist. As Rahilly has famously remarked, commenting on the tendency to overstate the role of image in painting, “No one goes to opera for the plot.”
Rahilly's paintings are in the collections of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and numerous corporate collections including BankBoston, Fidelity Investments, and Wellington Management Company.