Patrick McCaughey was born in Ireland in 1943 and came to Australia at the age of ten. He studied Fine Arts and English at the University of Melbourne and became art critic of The Age in 1966.
After a period in New York on a Harkness Fellowship, he was appointed Professor of Visual Arts at Monash University in 1972 and went on to become Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1981.
He left Australia in 1988 and was successively director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Yale Center for British Art. In 2003 he published his Australian memoir, The Bright Shapes and the True Names and in 2006 the Miegunyah Press published his Voyage and Landfall: The Art of Jan Senbergs.