Work of the Week | 2 July 2020

CAG.2347 Unknown artist, View of Cork Harbour from Rostellan, Inisbeg Island, 1809, oil on canvas, 22.5 x 50.5 cm. Purchased, 2007. 

It’s been so exciting to reopen our doors that we’re a little late with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Although the artist of this view is unknown, it is thought to be taken from a vantage point on the eastern side of Cork Harbour, near Rostellan, in 1809. The topography, however, appears to be exaggerated for both picturesque and dramatic effect!

Renowned for its scale, Cork Harbour covers an area of approximately 70 square kilometres. Unsurprisingly, it is one of several claimants to the title of second largest natural harbour – by navigable area – in the world, after Port Jackson in Sydney, Australia that is.

Cork Harbour’s long history includes thousands of years of settlement. Previously known as Cuan an Neimheadh (Harbour of Nemed), it was named for the leader of a group of ancient settlers who arrived in Ireland three thousand years ago.

During its long history of human occupation, the harbour was also once a key western defensive and provisioning port of the British Empire, and was retained by the United Kingdom from 1921 until 1938 as one of the ‘Treaty Ports’.

View of Cork Harbour from Rostellan, Inisbeg Island (1809) is featured in our new exhibition, STATIO BENE: Art and Ireland’s Maritime Haven. Open daily and free entry.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK!

Work of the Week | 22 June 2020

CAG.308 Mainie Jellett, Abstract Composition, c.1935, oil on canvas, 104 x 81.5 cm. Presented, Friends of the National Collections of Ireland.

We’re delighted to announce our upcoming reopening with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

As we get ready to open our doors again on Monday 29 June, it’s exciting to think about seeing and experiencing art ‘in the flesh’ once again. During the long lockdown, many of us turned to the work of artists, writers, actors, musicians, and so many others in our arts sector to sustain us and help us through.

It has been said of the artist behind this painting, Mainie Jellett (1897-1944), that for her “all the arts converged.” Particularly musical, she also designed stage sets for theatre, as she did for the 1941 ballet Puck Fair at The Gaiety Theatre. Her lifelong friend, the writer Elizabeth Bowen continues by saying that she “made felt in her painting, her consciousness of her own, and our own, time, with its death throes and birth pangs, its agonising transitions.”

Abstract Composition (c.1935) is a very fine example of Dublin-born Jellett’s disciplined form of Cubism, which she had perfected with Evie Hone and Albert Gleizes in Paris. While it may appear purely abstract, many rightly perceive a synthesis of subject matter. Using the traditional mode of oil on canvas, the artist distils her subject into modulations of colour and form, evoking something spiritual in the process. Does the painting refer to Christian imagery of the Holy Trinity or Madonna and Child?

The poet, and former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Thomas McGreevy once tellingly wrote that Jellett “is the least compromising as she is the best trained of what might be described as the experimental school of contemporary Irish artists.” He felt that her work was “the kind of art which shakes us out of our complacency.”

Abstract Composition (c.1935) by Mainie Jellett is on display in our Harry Clarke Room (Floor 2). Looking forward to welcoming you back!

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK NO 11 ABSTRACT COMPOSITION MAIMIE JELLETT

Work of the Week | 15 June 2020

CAG.793 Spanish School, Drug Jar (Albarello), eighteenth century, earthenware, H 24 cm. Gibson Bequest, 1919.

For this WORK OF THE WEEK we turn our attention to a curious object that entered our collection a century ago!

This earthenware Medicinal or Drug Jar dates back to at least the eighteenth century. More commonly known as an albarello, it would once have been used to hold ointments or other dry medicines in a pharmacy or apothecary’s shop. It is of a type of pottery called maiolica and the distinctive white and blue colouration stems from its tin-glaze and hand-painted design in cobalt oxide. This glazing is not only decorative but practical too, as it makes the jar impervious to liquids.

With their origins in the Middle East, albarelli became common in Italy and Spain in the fifteenth century. Measuring 24 centimetres (9.4 inches) in height, our example has a concave waist and would originally have had a leather or parchment seal tied at the neck. It is decorated with a bird and foliage motif that is typical to the province of Teruel in Aragon. Similar examples can be found in the collection of the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas in Madrid.

This particular object was bequeathed to us in 1919, at the end of the 'Spanish Flu' pandemic, by Joseph Stafford Gibson (1837-1919), a native of Cork who had lived in Madrid for the latter forty years of his life. It is mentioned in his will among “a collection of 15 plates, four round jars about nine inches high one with handles round it and a cover, the foot is missing.” These are now displayed in our Gibson Cabinet on Floor 1.

An amateur artist, Gibson traveled and painted extensively in Spain, with many of his watercolour studies being of Albarracín, a medieval town in Teruel. It is likely that he began his earthenware collection here. Fascinatingly, Ricardo Baroja (1871-1953) recounts meeting Gibson at Albarracín in his memoir, Gente del '98 (1952).

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK 10 ALBARELLO DRUG JAR

Work of the Week | 9 June 2020

CAG.2790 Aloysius O’Kelly, Corpus Christi Procession, c.1908, oil on canvas laid on board, 58 .5 x 39.5 cm. Presented to the State, 2012 (AIB Art Collection).

We’re marking the Feast of Corpus Christi (11 June) with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

As we patiently await the return of large public gatherings, Corpus Christi Procession (c.1908) by Aloysius O’Kelly captures a beautiful impression of one that is long since passed.

The painting presents three young figures in profile as they participate in a religious procession. Having trained under Jean-Léon Gérôme and Léon Bonnat at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Dublin-born artist here adopts an Impressionist style. Describing the particular effects of light and colour, summer warmth is communicated through earthy tones, which are set in contrast by the cool whites and blue shadows of the figures’ vestments.

The setting for the painting is likely north-western France, thus making this a depiction of a Breton celebration of La Fête-Dieu (Corpus Christi). Having visited Brittany in 1876, and subsequently moving to the fishing port of Concarneau, Aloysius O’Kelly (1853-1936) became one of the first Irish artists to live and work in the region. Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940) and William John Leech (1881-1968) would follow.

Although he emigrated to New York in 1895, O’Kelly would return to France on numerous occasions, completing this work and the similarly themed Ave Maria - procession religieuse en Bretagne (1909) around the same time.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK NO 9 CORPUS CHRISTI ALOYSIUS O KELLY

WORK OF THE WEEK | 2 June 2020

CAG.485 Beatrice E. Gubbins, Bastia, n.d., watercolour on paper, 24 x 35 cm. Purchased, The Fine Art Society, 1933, (Gibson Bequest Fund).

We’re off to the Mediterranean with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

An early twentieth-century view of Corsica, Bastia offers us a sultry image of the Biguglia Lagoon (L'Etang de Biguglia) on the Bevinco river.

Closer inspection reveals a solitary figure in a small rowing boat close to the centre of this beautiful composition of languorous trees in greens, blues, and browns. Previously titled Lakeside Scene, A Summer’s Day it is one of seven watercolours in the collection by Irish artist Beatrice E. Gubbins.

Beatrice Edith Gubbins (1878-1944) lived, for some years, with her four sisters at Dunkettle House, overlooking the River Lee and Lough Mahon. As with her sisters, Gubbins was deaf but received treatment in London, which restored some hearing when she was in her mid-thirties. Having subsequently trained as a nurse, she tended to wounded soldiers in Cork and Exeter during the First World War.

Gubbins, who may have been educated in our building at the then Crawford School of Art, exhibited her work at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Belfast Arts Society, and the Watercolour Society of Ireland. She also travelled extensively in England, France, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the West Indies. We held a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work in 1986, as did Lismore Art Centre in 1998.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK 8 BASTIA BEATRICE GUBBINS
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WORK OF THE WEEK | 26 May 2020

CAG.1414 Vivienne Roche, Viapori Bell, 1991, bronze and steel, 236 cm. Presented, Friends of the Crawford Art Gallery, 1991. © the artist

This WORK OF THE WEEK is the first artwork that visitors encounter – sometimes even ring! – on visiting the gallery.

The distinctive form and sound of Viapori Bell (1991) by Vivienne Roche transports us in time and place.

The title refers to the eighteenth-century sea fortress of Viapori (Suomenlinna or Sveaborg), which is located southeast of the Finnish capital of Helsinki. While the smooth, narrow form of the bell's housing echoes this defensive architecture, the bell itself appears more organic and rougher hewn.

"All my themes," the artist has noted, "are subsumed in my basic concern with duality. The general oppositions on show – male/female, object/ritual, line/mass, steel/bronze, etc. – express my need to unify something that is fragmented. Some kind of fusion of self with world. A spiritual need, very simple and largely inexplicable."

Viapori Bell (1991) is a product of Roche's travels in Scandinavia and consciously rekindles earlier, medieval contact between Ireland and the Nordic countries. Although it is itself an earlier work in the artist's career, it holds a strong resonance with her more recent series of Climate Bells inspired by President Michael D. Higgins' address at the Summit of Conscience for Climate in 2015.

Co-founder of the National Sculpture Factory, Vivienne Roche is a member of Aosdána and the Royal Hibernian Academy. She lives and works near the sea in County Cork.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK 7 VIAPORI BELL VIVIENNE ROCHE
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WORK OF THE WEEK | 19 May 2020

CAG.3026 George Atkinson, Shannon Scheme No. 2: The Culvert, 1929, etching on paper, 45.5 x 50.4 cm. Presented, 2015.

We’re all about forward motion with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Shannon Scheme No. 2: The Culvert (1929) is one of a series of etchings by George Atkinson in the collection that document Ireland’s major civil engineering project of the 1920s.

Begun in 1925, construction of the Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme at Ardnacrusha, County Clare was completed within seven years of the formation of the Irish Free State. A potent symbol of independence and modernity, it also generated huge employment and interest from the public and artists alike, including George Atkinson and Seán Keating.

Derived from drawings the artist made on site c.1927, Atkinson’s series – which also includes Shannon Scheme No. 1: Keeper Mountain and Shannon Scheme No. 3: The Excavations – had been commissioned by the Irish government. Collectively they demonstrate the sheer scale and ambition of the project, which would see the formation of the ESB and culminate in the harnessing of Ireland’s longest river.

Hailing from Cork, George Atkinson (1880-1941) trained at the Royal College of Art, London. In 1917, he was elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and subsequently became Director of the National College of Art and Design and Expert Advisor to our Gibson Bequest Committee.

This time last year, Shannon Scheme No. 2: The Culvert (1929) was exhibited at the National Gallery of Ireland – alongside the other two in Atkinson’s series – in MAKING THEIR MARK: Irish Painter-Etchers and the Etching Revival, which was curated by Dr Angela Griffith and Anne Hodge. Prior to the lockdown, it had been displayed as part of our own exhibition, MISE ÉIRE.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK 6 SHANNON SCHEME NO 2 GEORGE ATKINSON REVISED

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 11 May 2020

CAG.934 After Timotheos, Bust of Asclepius, 19th century, plaster cast, 71 x 43 x 32 cm

Happy Museum Week! Today’s theme is Heroes so we’re dedicating this WORK OF THE WEEK to all of you frontline healthcare staff out there. Thank you from all of us!

Did you know that the Greek god of healing was named Asclepius? While he may not be a household name today, he was a prominent hero and deity in ancient times. One of his attributes – a snake-entwined staff – still symbolizes healthcare and features prominently on the logo of the World Health Organization (WHO). Son of the god Apollo and the mortal Coronis, his story is quite literally the stuff of legend…

Asclepius, whose birth was attended by Lachesis (one of the three Fates or Moirai), learned the art of healing from a Centaur named Chiron. He is said to have surpassed his teacher and his father in this regard and numerous stories of miraculous healing are associated with him. Greek healing temples even took his name – Asclepieia – and he was eventually transformed into a god by Zeus himself.

Unsurprisingly, Asclepius’ daughters also joined the ‘family business’ and are all associated with aspects of healthcare: Aceso (healing process), Aegle (good health), Hygieia (cleanliness), Iaso (recuperation), Panacea (universal remedy).

Although our Bust of Asclepius dates to the nineteenth century, it is a partial cast of a second-century marble sculpture, which was itself a copy of an earlier Greek sculpture by Timotheos! Are you still with us? Now in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, the full marble version had been among the antiquities seized by Napoleon’s forces following the Treaty of Tolentino in 1797.

Fun fact: the artist Timotheos, who died c.340 BCE, was a native of the Greek city of Epidaurus, reputed birthplace of Asclepius and a noted healing centre in ancient times. He was the principal sculptor at – you guessed it! – the Temple of Asclepius.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 6 May 2020

CAG.466 Joseph Higgins, An Strachaire Fir, c.1923, bronze, 42 x 47 x 31 cm. Purchased, the Artist, 1924 (Gibson Bequest Fund).

An Strachaire Fir (c.1923) by Joseph Higgins is a remarkable bronze sculpture in the collection. Translated as ‘the strapping man’, the title aptly describes the broad-shouldered male subject, whose turned and slightly downcast head suggests movement. Its strong, restless modelling and taut moustached features also suggest an awareness of the work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Cast in Italy in bronze, the original clay model was made c.1916 when the artist was 30 or 31.

A native of Ballincollig, Joseph Higgins (1885-1925) took night classes in our building (then the Crawford School of Art) while working nearby, on French Church Street, at the grocers and tea dealers Newsom & Sons. In 1924, Higgins won a bronze medal for sculpture at the Tailteann Games, having previously been awarded South Kensington and Royal Dublin Society prizes earlier in his career. In a curious historical quirk, it is believed that Higgins was nominated to tell Muriel MacSwiney, Lady Mayoress of Cork, of her husband Terence MacSwiney’s final arrest in 1920.

In 1914, Higgins had married fellow artist, Katherine Turnbull, whom he met at art school. While they were to have four surviving children, he would succumb to tuberculosis in 1925, aged just 39. Their daughter, the artist, designer, and teacher Maighréad (1919-2014), would later marry sculptor Séamus Murphy, whom she had met during her own studies in our building. Evidently, there were some serious love matches between classes!

Modelled on his nephew, a bronze cast of Joseph Higgins’ Boy with Boat (1910) is a beloved mainstay of Fitzgerald Park in Cork.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 28 April 2020

CAG.309 Muriel Brandt, The Breadline, 1916, c.1950, oil on board, 61 x 38 cm. Purchased, Munster Fine Art Society, 1958 (Gibson Bequest Fund). © the artist’s estate.

We’re marking the 104th anniversary of the Easter Rising (24-29 April 1916) with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

The Breadline, 1916 (c.1950) by Muriel Brandt looks back on a tumultuous time in our history and reflects the associated hardship experienced by Irish civilians. The painting has been described as ‘an interpretation of the aftermath of the Rising, showing the effect it had on the ordinary people of Dublin.’

In the foreground of this busy composition, various children are gathered waiting for the women who queue for bread provided by the Daughters of Charity. Ironically, the Rising had left the nearby Dublin Bread Company building in ruins. Popular memory tells of bread being brought in from unaffected bakeries in County Kildare and elsewhere to relieve the city’s hunger. Identifiable by their traditional habit and large starched cornettes, the Daughters of Charity had a premises on Henrietta Street.

Brandt’s scene plays out against a backdrop of damaged Georgian doorcases, plush furnishings on the street, and the rubble of a city. Surrounded by British armed forces, Nelson’s Pillar dominates in the distance as a potent symbol of continued colonial rule.

Long before it was commonplace, however, Muriel Brandt (1909-1981) here recovers women’s narratives within a pivotal historic moment. The artist’s perspective is particularly noteworthy too given that she painted this work against the hardships and deprivations of the 1940s and 50s.

Tune in to The Arts House on Cork’s 96FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK!

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 21 April 2020

CAG.845 Francis Tailleux, A Street Scene (or On the Seafront), 1936, oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm. Purchased, Dr Thomas Bodkin, 1936 (Gibson Bequest Fund). © the artist’s estate

We’re taking our daily exercise with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

French artist Francis Tailleux (1913-1981) relocates us to the Dieppe seafront on the Côte d’Albâtre – Normandy’s beautiful Alabaster Coast – in A Street Scene (1936). Flags flutter on the sea breeze, as walkers make their way along the Boulevard de Verdun.

Look closely and you’ll spot a girl playing ‘hoop and stick’, while a smartly dressed staff member emerges from a nearby hotel. Following the strong diagonal of the boulevard, the Hôtel Royal stands further in the background, a building which still exists today.

Fun fact: this leisurely scene was completed in the same year as the Accords de Matignon, the French labour agreement that established the 40-hour workweek and two weeks paid vacation.

Purchased from Thomas Bodkin (1887-1961), following his directorship of the National Gallery of Ireland, this painting forms part of our Gibson Bequest collection – a fitting addition given that our benefactor Joseph Stafford Gibson (1837-1919) had visited Dieppe in 1861.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 14 April 2020

CAG.43 Sylvia Cooke-Collis, Donkeys in County Clare, c.1955, oil on board, 25.6 x 37.7 cm. Purchased, An tOireachtas, 1956 (Gibson Bequest Fund). © the artist’s estate.

These days the world can feel pretty heavy… so this WORK OF THE WEEK is all about cute donkeys!

Did you know that donkeys – or Equus asinus – were first domesticated in Egypt and Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago? Our painted donkeys are much younger than that, however, and date to the mid-1950s! Three of them have obediently posed for artist Sylvia Cooke-Collis (1900-1973) along the rocky West Clare coastline, while four more can be seen in the background, keeping a safe distance with the Atlantic Ocean spreading out beyond.

Donkeys in County Clare (c.1955) is painted in the artist’s characteristic style, which embodies some of the Fauvist qualities of Henri Matisse and Othon Friesz. Perhaps owing to her own childhood at Annes Grove, County Cork, Cooke-Collis returned again and again to depicting horses and rural or coastal landscapes in her work. This painting is one of several by the artist in the collection, each of which possesses a joyful energy. Look closely and you’ll spot her signature ‘S C-C’ in the bottom righthand corner!

Born Sylvia Margaret Philips, her artistic circle would grow to include Elizabeth Bowen, Seamus Murphy, and Basil Rákóczi. She lived at Ballymacmoy House, Killavullen, County Cork following her marriage to Maurice Talbot Cooke-Collis (1879-1968) in April 1932.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here: 

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WORK OF THE WEEK | 6 April 2020

CAG.372 Nathaniel Grogan, Whipping the Herring out of Town – A Scene of Cork, c.1800, oil on panel, 25.5 x 29 cm. Purchased, 1992

Did you know that, historically, the end of Lent was not just celebrated by Christians, but very particularly by the butchers of Ireland too!?

In this painting by Nathaniel Grogan (1740-1807), the unusual tradition of ‘whipping the herring out of town’ is depicted in small scale but rich detail. In this case, Cork butchers are seen heralding the last day of Lent, and the accompanying Lenten sacrifice, with a mock ‘herring funeral’ procession past the city’s old North Gate.

Painted c.1800, this ‘genre scene’ fits into a tradition in Northern European paintings of everyday life and offers a fascinating commentary on the meeting of Ireland’s faith and food cultures. The herring then symbolised abstinence as it was the staple (cheap) fish for many, but especially when other items were off the menu. The coming of Easter meant that forty days of fasting (or not eating meat) was at an end and the butchers could return to prosperity.

And what better way to announce this, you may ask, than to parade through the crowded city streets and ‘whipping the herring’ with a stick or birch broom!

While a good deal of raucous humour pervades this scene, the religious context of Lent and Easter is, however, not lost on the Cork-born artist. The importance of the quarter of lamb (Lamb of God) borne aloft on a pitchfork, for instance, is highlighted with a quasi-religious ‘glow’ near the centre of the work. It is the focal point in an otherwise busy composition of fiddle-playing and children’s curiosity (bottom right), dogs chasing boars (bottom left), and the well-to-do remaining aloof (background). Life marches on!

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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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