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Exhibitions Archive



Seán Keating, Men of the South, 1921-22. © Estate of Seán Keating, IVARO Dublin, 2022.

AS THEY MUST HAVE BEEN: Men of the South, 1922-2022

30 July – 25 September

Seán Keating’s group portrait, Men of the South, was completed a century ago this year.

The painting, which has become an icon of the period, was created in the long shadow of the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) when, during the truce of 11 July 1921, members of the Cork No. 2 Brigade visited the artist’s Dublin studio. Keating would later remark: ‘They trooped in, dressed and armed very much as they must have been on many an ambush.’

Exhibited in 1922 at both the Munster Fine Arts Club and Royal Hibernian Academy, Men of the South excited discussion in the Cork press and was ultimately purchased for the collection, in 1924, through the Gibson Bequest Fund.

This exhibition places Men of the South in context and seeks to draw out stories of the individuals depicted, the wider theatre of war, and the circumstances surrounding the making of a masterpiece. It also provides a rare opportunity to encounter Men of the South with its companion painting, An IRA Column (1921), which is on kind loan from Áras an Uachtaráin.

Accompanying this focused consideration of Men of the South is a broader exploration of 1920s Ireland, and the emergence of the Irish Free State, as represented through selected artworks by George Atkinson, Hugh C. Charde, Margaret Clarke, John Day, Paul Henry, Catherine Holland, Mainie Jellett, John Lavery, Louis le Brocquy, Séamus Murphy, Breda O’Donoghue-Lucci, William Rothenstein, Thomas Ryan, Oliver Sheppard, Estella Solomons, and Jack B. Yeats.

This centenary exhibition invites visitors to reflect upon the power of art to shape or reshape our histories, with an eye to posterity and bearing witness to lives and events ‘as they must have been’.

Curated by Michael Waldron

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of free public tours and a special Heritage Week event, Men of the South at 100: An Oral History with Maurice O’Keeffe (Irish Life & Lore) and curator Michael Waldron at 5:30pm, Thursday 18 August, Crawford Art Gallery.

Listen back to Conor Tallon and Michael Waldron discussing AS THEY MUST HAVE BEEN on The Arts House for Cork’s 96fm.


Emmett Place, Cork, Ireland
T12 TNE6
Tel: 021 480 5042

Opening Hours
N.B. Last entry is 15 minutes before closing

Monday–Saturday 10.00am–5.00pm*
Thursday until 8.00pm

Sundays and Bank Holidays
11.00 am4.00pm

*Second floor closes 15 minutes before closing
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