WORK OF THE WEEK | 30 March 2020

This very colourful painting, Cut Out, Drop Out (1968) by Gerard Dillon, mixes melancholy with hope as a strange science-fiction landscape unfolds before the viewer.

In this cryptic scene, the artist employs a recurring figure in his work: Pierrot. A stock character from the commedia dell’arte (Italian street theatre), Pierrot is often seen as a clumsy and sad clown, but with deep pathos and a capacity for fun. Also featured in works by Antoine Watteau, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí, here Pierrot looks skyward, his melancholy form jarring with the colourful palette of Gerard Dillon (1916-1971).

This painting was completed in the aftermath of Dillon’s first stroke, which would have a profound effect on his practice. Often autobiographical, the works that emerged in the few short years that followed – including this one – became otherworldly, colourful and dreamlike meditations on mortality. Indeed, the three figures forming the branches of a (family) tree in the middle foreground of Cut Out, Drop Out may represent his brothers who had predeceased him.

And yet, as his biographer James White notes, ‘it is hard to imagine that any other artist ever got more out of his art than Gerard did. Through it he discovered the full joy of creativity.’

Perhaps this explains why, in his treatment of the sky in Cut Out, Drop Out, Dillon references Henri Matisse, who in declining health turned to making complex, joyous, and liberating cut-outs. Although his Pierrot seems to have fallen from his element, Dillon’s cut-outs ask us to look up and embrace the healing potential of play.

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 23 March 2020

CAG.3022 Regina Carbayo, Portrait of Kate O’Brien, 2015, charcoal on paper, 108.4 x 65.6 cm. Purchased, the Artist, 2015. © the artist

Limerick-born writer Kate O’Brien, the subject of this portrait by Regina Carbayo, once wrote that Irish people ‘have always had the knack – in our religious history as well as in our literary – of catching on to Europe – of by-passing our British conquerors in our thought and reaching out to Spain and France.’

In this time of great hardship, we look to the bonds of friendship that unite us across Europe and the world. Regina Carbayo​, who lives and works between Cork and her native Cádiz, was commissioned to create this portrait by our former Director, Peter Murray, in part because of the strong connection the Irish writer had with Spain. Indeed, Kate O’Brien had written her non-fiction elegy Farewell Spain (1937) under the shadow of the Spanish Civil War.

As Carbayo points out, ‘although it was inspired by the outrage of the Spanish Civil War, it is not really a political book … It is a book of reminiscence, of nostalgic pleasure, of regret for something perhaps never to be experienced again.’

In her Portrait of Kate O’Brien (2015), Carbayo approached her subject ‘as a brave, strong, secure and independent woman who looks straight into the beholder’s eyes.’ In order to avoid distractions, the artist chose to leave the background blank, while she was also economical with the details of hair and O’Brien’s characteristic clothing.

The artist says she ‘was astonished and fascinated by O’Brien’s experience, stories and courage.’ Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) was the author of several novels, including Mary Lavelle (1936) and The Land of Spices (1941), both of which were banned in Ireland. In 1938, O’Brien published Pray for the Wanderer in response to the ‘new Calvinism’ of the Irish Free State.

Regina Carbayo was shortlisted for the Hennessy Portrait Prize in 2016. Her portrait of Terence MacSwiney (1879-1920), former Lord Mayor of Cork, is in the collection of the Independence Museum Kilmurry​.

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 17 March 2020

CAG.111 Harry Clarke, The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick, 1910, stained glass, 67.3 x 60.3 cm. © Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

We may be working from home, but we’re still bringing you our WORK OF THE WEEK!

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, we have chosen one of the most beloved works of stained glass in the collection: Harry Clarke’s The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick (1910).

This prize-winning stained-glass panel depicts St Patrick, one of Ireland’s three patron saints, with his nephew, St Mél of Ardagh (d. 488). Did you know that Mél (or Moel) was the son of Patrick’s sister, St Darerca, who has been described as the mother of many saints and patron of Valentia Island, County Kerry?

In the difficult times we are now living through, spare a thought for St Mél who has become a ‘patron saint’ of single people and the positives of self-isolation! In Clarke’s stained glass, however, St Mel is presented, head bowed, in the company of others and to one side of his more famous uncle. The artist depicts St Patrick as an elder, benign figure complete with bishop’s mitre (hat) and crosier (staff) to identify his authority.

Medieval metalwork and Romaneque stonework details in the background place this image firmly within Ireland’s “Celtic Revival” period; while another curious detail, a banner above Mel’s head, shows a winged and crowned Mary, mother of Jesus, in her role as Theotokos or Mater Dei (Mother of God).

Better known as Harry, Henry Patrick Clarke was born in Dublin on this day in 1889 – yes, St Patrick’s Day – to Brigid MacGonigal and Joshua Clarke. He would become one of Ireland’s most distinctive and internationally recognised artists.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir!
Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 10 March 2020

“I was a great believer in hot buttered toast at all hours of the day."

Words of wisdom from Frank O'Connor for this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Frank O'Connor, who died on this day in 1966, is one of Ireland's most celebrated short story writers. This portrait of him by Norah McGuinness (1901-1980) is currently featured in MISE ÉIRE, our exhibition that explores the formation of modern Ireland. Having joined the First Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army in 1918, aged just 15, O'Connor was interned by the Irish Free State government during the Irish Civil War (1922-23) along with thousands of other Anti-Treaty forces.

O'Connor, who was born Michael O'Donovan in 1903, would eventually filter some of these experiences into his writing, particularly “Guests of the Nation” (1931). He is also the author of The Big Fellow (1937), his biography of Michael Collins, and My Oedipus Complex.

Portrait of Frank O'Connor (1949) by Norah McGuinness is featured in MISE ÉIRE (Floor 2) until 29 March 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 3 March 2020

Did you know that a version of our WORK OF THE WEEK – Deirdre (1942) by Jacob Epstein – was once owned by actor Peter O’Toole?

Purchased as part of the Gibson Bequest in 1955, our version is properly titled Third Portrait of Deirdre (Leaning Forward). A bronze sculpture with green patina (oxidized film), it is a study of the Epsteins’ housekeeper and cook who worked for them from 1939 until she joined the War Office in 1942. Described as ‘exceptionally pretty,’ she subsequently emigrated to Australia following her marriage. The artist’s previous iterations on his subject date from 1941-42 and are known as First Portrait of Deirdre (with Arms) and Second Portrait of Deirdre (in a Slip).

Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) is credited as a pioneer of modernist sculpture and was an influence on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. His work nevertheless drew criticism, often antisemitic, for its overtly sexual imagery and for abandoning Classical models. Regularly making portraits of those he knew, or even of strangers, Epstein is perhaps best known for Rock Drill (1913-15) and as the sculptor of the ‘infamous’ grave monument to Oscar Wilde at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Deirdre (1942) by Jacob Epstein can be viewed for two more weeks in THE GIBSON BEQUEST: Home & Away, which must close on 17 March 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 24 February 2020

Red Roofs, Nerja (1973) bristles with a quivering, restless energy as the artist balances colour with the particulars of light and form that run in parallel with reality. In this painting, Alicia Boyle responds to the palette and textures of Nerja, Spain in her typically impressionist style. As a comparison, however, it is quite different from Machines of Learning (1938), an earlier example of her work that is also in the collection.

Alicia Boyle (1908-1997) was born in Bangkok and, from an early age, led a highly mobile life. Following a childhood in Limavady, County Derry and in London, she received a scholarship to the independent Byam Shaw School Art (now part of Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London). While there she trained under principal and lithographer F. Ernest Jackson (1872-1945), whose philosophy focused on simplicity, unity, and intentionality. Much of Boyle’s subsequent career was spent between Ireland, England, Spain, and Greece, before she settled in Bantry, County Cork in 1971.

Red Roofs, Nerja (1973) by Alicia Boyle is featured in THE GIBSON BEQUEST: Home & Away until 17 March 2020 in our Long Room (Floor 1).

WORK OF THE WEEK | 17 February 2020

Amongst the portraits displayed on our first floor is this singular work by Eileen Healy – shown here in a detail. The artist depicts a seated Cónal Creedon – with hands clasped and wearing a long coat (and sheriff’s badge!) – seemingly deep in thought, perhaps plotting out the germ of a new story. “I love the process of writing,” the playwright and novelist notes, “sitting down and just enjoying these people I’ve created. When you get rid of it and publish it, that’s the end of it.”

Author of 1990s RTÉ radio drama Under the Goldie Fish, Creedon has also written two novels, Passion Play (1999) and Begotten Not Made (2018), and made several documentaries, including The Burning of Cork (2005). This portrait serves as the cover image for his Second City Trilogy. He is currently adjunct professor in creative writing at the Department of English, University College Cork.

A member of Backwater Artists Group, Eileen Healy is a figurative artist: “I am attracted to the immediacy and freshness of recreating in my own language what is in front of me.” Working from life, she creates direct, honest, and strong portraits of people who sit in her studio. She also teaches life drawing at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design.

Portrait of Cónal Creedon (2007) byEileen Healy is displayed on our Main Landing (Floor 1).

WORK OF THE WEEK | 12 February 2020

A Race in Hy Brazil (1937) presents a lush, peopled landscape in rich blue and green tones. Vigorously and expressively painted by Jack B. Yeats, this stunning work depicts the mystical ‘Isle of the Blest’ from Irish mythology.

Reputed to lie in the Atlantic Ocean – and even appearing in nautical charts over the centuries! – Hy-Brazil (or Brasil) was considered a paradise of peace and eternal life akin to Tír na nÓg (Land of Youth). The phantom island’s name is probably derived from the clan Uí Breasail and has no connection to the South American republic, Brazil.

Yeats, however, conjures up a land that does not exist and imagines this ‘region of sunshine and rest’ from a poem by Gerald Griffin (1803-1840). In addition to an appearance in the work of the artist’s brother, poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Hy-Brazil also featured in a lecture by the humanitarian and revolutionary, Roger Casement (1864-1916).

Painted in 1937 – the same year as Bunreacht na hÉireann (Constitution of Ireland) – it perhaps presents a hopeful utopian vision of the world, even as war loomed.

A Race in Hy Brazil (1937) by Jack B. Yeats – part of the AIB Art Collection donated to the State in 2012 – is featured in MISE ÉIRE, which runs until 29 March 2020 in our Modern Galleries (Floor 2).

WORK OF THE WEEK | 4 February 2020

An image of destruction that holds contemporary resonance, this is one of over 300 watercolours by Joseph Stafford Gibson, which were bequeathed to us after his death in Madrid on 3 February 1919.

In a letter to British MP Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) dated 8 February 1894, Gibson explains that he “lived in France from 1862 up to the Franco-German war & afterwards till the year 1877 when I came to Spain.”

This street scene of Asnières-sur-Seine was painted in the aftermath of La Commune de Paris (Paris Commune). In 1871, Gibson evidently bore witness to this destruction and the radical two-month government that emerged from the Franco-Prussian War and collapse of the Second French Empire.

Joseph Stafford Gibson (1837-1919) was born in Kilmurry, near Bandon, County Cork. Although his father was in the military, he was descended from prominent Cork silversmiths. An amateur artist, he would write in 1889: “think that every one should have an occupation, mine is painting [...] never able to exhibit a picture.” That being said, numerous of his watercolours are helpfully, but critically annotated by James Brenan (1837-1907), headmaster of the Cork School of Art (1860-89), and he steadily mastered his techniques over a fifty year period.

Curiously, Gibson has a chapter devoted to him in Gente del '98 by artist Ricardo Baroja (1871-1953) – one-time colleague of Pablo Picasso – entitled “José Stratford Gibson, pintor inglés desconocido” (unknown English [sic] painter).

Asnières – Rue de Normandie (1871) by Joseph Stafford Gibson is featured in THE GIBSON BEQUEST: Home & Away until 17 March 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 28 January 2020

Dylan is Ainm Dom... (2018), as its Irish language title suggests, explores contemporary concerns with self-identity in modern Ireland. It is the work of rising artist Stephen Doyle and was previously shortlisted for the prestigious Zurich Portrait Prize 2018 at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

The setting is a park near seventeen-year-old Dylan’s home in Lucan, County Dublin. The familiar landscape gives the sitter an immediate connection to his heritage, while the medium of oil paint extends this sense of tradition. The artist’s use of bold neon, however, implies an ‘otherness’. This is thought to be the first artwork in the national collection that openly addresses transgender identity.

Mary McCarthy, our Director, acknowledges that Crawford Art Gallery “aims to reflect contemporary life and our audiences and to support artists at all stages of their careers. We are delighted to work with Stephen Doyle and we appreciate his generosity.”

Stephen Doyle (b.1994) is an Irish visual artist whose practice addresses queer identity and queer culture. He hopes that “any transgender individual who sees the work will be able to connect with it and know that they belong.” A graduate of CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, he is currently based in Backwater Artists Studios, Cork.

Dylan is Ainm Dom... (2018) by Stephen Doyle is now on display in advance of the launch of the ZURICH PORTRAIT PRIZE and Zurich YOUNG Portrait Prize.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 20 January 2020

The Boxer (c.1914) by William Orpen is a pencil and watercolour study that came into the collection in 2012 when it was donated to the State as part of the AIB Art Collection. It depicts a boxer being assisted out of the ring by two figures, male and female, with the faint echo of a crowd beyond. It is closely related to another work by Orpen, featuring a victorious Jack Johnson, entitled The Winner (The Champ).

Perhaps best known for his society portraits, William Orpen (1878-1931) also taught at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (now National College of Art and Design), where he emphasised the importance of life drawing – so evident in this dynamic composition. Among his students were a generation of emerging Irish artists, including Margaret Clarke (1884-1961), Grace Gifford (1888-1955), Seán Keating (1889-1977), Patrick Tuohy (1894-1930), and Leo Whelan (1892-1956).

Close inspection of the left-hand figure in The Boxer reveals Orpen’s likely use of Keating as model – the younger artist was his assistant in 1914. In the following year, Orpen was commissioned as an official war artist and rose to the rank of Major, spending time at the Western Front near the Somme in 1917.

The Boxer (c.1914) by William Orpen is featured in MYSTERY & IMAGINATION: Harry Clarke Watercolours until 2 February 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 13 January 2020

WORK OF THE WEEK!Properly titled El PerseguidorDespojado (the bereft tracker), this painting by Seán Keating is inspired by Don Quixote (1605-15), Miguel de Cervantes’ celebrated novel about a delusional hidalgo (gentleman). Brimming with symbolism, it is possible that the artist selected this subject for its nationalist commentary to reflect a pivotal time in Ireland’s own modern history.

The sympathetic and teary-eyed main figure holds both our gaze and the golden helmet of Mambrim, a knight who is seen riding away in the background. In reality, the knight is a local barber and his helmet a copper soap bowl!

The more mysterious figure in profile in the middle ground separates Don Quixote from this ‘knight’ and suggests a divide between reality and deception, hero and anti-hero. Perhaps to emphasise this point, the artist has based the helmeted figure on Donatello’s heroic sculpture, David (1408-9), who triumphed over Goliath.

This work was purchased in 1921 through our Gibson Bequest Fund, particularly fitting given its subject matter. Our benefactor, Joseph Stafford Gibson (1837-1919), resided in Madrid for forty years and bequeathed us two editions of Don Quixote de la Mancha, still housed in our library. Swipe to see the title pages for the four-volume Hartzenbusch edition and six-volume edition introduced by Diego Clemencín.

Come and see El PrestigadoreDespogjade (1918) by Seán Keating in THE GIBSON BEQUEST 1919-2019, which must close on 19 January 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 6 January 2020

Nollaig na mBan shona daoibh! We’re celebrating Women’s Little Christmas with our first WORK OF THE WEEK of the year.

The Dressmaker (1924) is an understated and intimate painting by Margaret Clarke, which was donated to us by her friend, the Irish playwright Lennox Robinson (1886-1958). It offers the viewer a window into 1920s Ireland, as two women are shown in a time-honoured yet modern relationship – dressmaker and client – and embody the social changes of the age, which include shorter hair and hemlines!

The composition focuses on these two figures, and their attention to detail, and allows the viewer to project their questions: is this a new garment or something that needs alterations, is it symbolic or for a special occasion?

Ambitious and highly skilled, Margaret Clarke (1884-1961), née Crilley was born in Newry, County Down. She won a scholarship in 1905 to study at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, receiving her teaching certificate in 1911 and subsequently working as an assistant to her teacher, Sir William Orpen (1878-1931). She married stained-glass artist, illustrator, and classmate Harry Clarke (1889-1931) on 31 October 1914. Exhibiting her work regularly at the Royal Hibernian Academy, from 1913 until 1953, Margaret Clarke won medals at each of the Aonach Tailteann.

Until relatively recently, however, her work has often been overshadowed by that of her husband, something she was not unaccustomed to in her lifetime, becoming Director of the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios after his early death. Writing in response to a review of her 1924 solo exhibition by Thomas Bodkin (1887-1961), she asked: ‘I hope I shall be able to attract your appreciation of my individual efforts as a painter, rather than the fact I am the wife of one artist and the pupil of another.’ National Gallery of Ireland, Dublinand F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio, Banbridge held a retrospective of her work in 2017.

The Dressmaker (1924) by Margaret Clarke is featured in MYSTERY & IMAGINATION: Harry Clarke Watercolours until 2 February 2020.

WORK OF THE WEEK | 30 December 2019

The Goddess Concordia (c.1816) by Antonio Canova follows the ancient tradition of female personifications, still popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Seated with sceptre (imperial staff), diadem (tiara), and patera (dish), the goddess represents agreement or harmony, whether social or political. Her throne also includes references to the Roman eagle (aquila), perhaps an alusion to the artist’s intention to transform this work into an Imperial portrait.

Similar to Canova’s portrait of Marie Louise of Habsburg as Concordia (c.1811-14), in the collection of Galleria Nazionale di Parma, our plaster sculpture differs significantly in the face and other less noticeable details. It is therefore more closely aligned with the artist’s original plaster model (1809-10) – part of the Museo Canova collection – a sort of studio prototype from which it is derived.

Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was the leading Neoclassical sculptor of his generation and an international superstar two centuries ago. Known for his grand classical subjects and elegant portraits, particularly of Napoleon’s extended family, he also acted as a diplomat on behalf of the papacy. In 1816, he was commissioned by Pope Pius VII to oversee the creation of a significant diplomatic gift: The Canova Casts. These storied objects would eventually make their way to Cork, via London, and have formed the basis of our collection for two hundred years.

The Goddess Concordia (c.1816), currently featured in the exhibition RECASTING CANOVA, recently became the 16,000th object to be added to Scan the World, a community-built archive of 3D printable sculpture and cultural artefacts.

Crawford Art Gallery

Crawford Art Gallery