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LGBTQ+ Gallery Trail

CAG.3056 Stephen Doyle, Dylan Is Ainm Dom..., 2018, mixed media on board (oil and neon glass), 120 x 120 cm. Presented, 2019, for the Transgender Community in Ireland. © the artist

24 July - 5 September

Happy Pride from Crawford Art Gallery! 

To celebrate Cork Pride Festival, we have created a special LGBTQ+ Gallery Trail for visitors to follow. As we continue to diversify the collection with recent acquisitions focusing on queer subjects or by queer artists, we invite you to explore the gallery in the heart of Cork City through an alternative lens. Learn about LGBTQ+ lives past and present through 9 displayed artworks, ranging from ancient Hercules and the extraordinary Dr James Barry to contemporary artists, actors, writers, and experiences.

Featuring artworks by James Barry, Margaret Clarke, Stephen Doyle, Patrick Hennessy, and Victoria Russell, our LGBTQ+ Gallery Trail runs from 24 July until 5 September. 

Open daily | Free entry | All welcome!

LGBTQ+ flag

Click on the tabs below to find out more about each of the gallery trail artworks

Image: CAG.716 The Belvedere Torso: Hercules, c.1816, plaster cast after marble, 119 x 85 x 84 cm. © Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
The Belvedere Torso: Hercules
c.1816, plaster cast after Roman copy in Musei Vaticani

This plaster cast represents the muscular fragment of an ancient heroic sculpture. The remaining broken physique is hypermasculine and has been identified by some as that of Heracles (Hercules). Lacking arms, lower legs, and a head, it is also a body that has been queered by time.

In the mythology of Ancient Greece, Heracles is a divine hero known to have taken male lovers – including Abderus, Hylas, Nireus, and Polystratus – subordinate eromenoi to his active role as erastes. Existing in the culture of the time, homosexual relationships of this kind have been more recently explored in the novel, The Song of Achilles (2011), by Madeline Miller.

Transferred, Royal Cork Institution, c.1849

Venus de Milo
Aphrodite from Melos (Venus de Milo)
nineteenth century, plaster cast after marble original

Aphrodite was the Ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love, and sexuality. Through her relationship with Hermes, the messenger god of boundaries and fertility, she bore the intersex child, Hermaphroditus.

Aphrodite appears in the poetry of Sappho of Lesbos. Prolific in her literary output, the ancient lyric poet is known for such poems as “Ode to Aphrodite”. Over time, her work has come to be associated with female same-sex desire and love and has given rise to the modern words sapphic and lesbian.

In contemporary culture, the flag for Lesbian Pride includes a double Venus symbol – Venus being Aphrodite’s equivalent in Ancient Roman mythology.

Transferred, Royal Cork Institution, c.1849

Victoria Russell, Portrait of Fiona Shaw, 2002, oil on canvas, 182 x 122 cm. © the artist.
Victoria Russell (b.1964)
Portrait of Fiona Shaw
2002, oil on canvas

Cork-born Fiona Shaw is a BAFTA and Olivier Award-winning actor of screen and stage, known for her roles in The Butcher Boy, Three Men and a Little Lady, The Last September, and as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter films. She has been Emmy-nominated for her performances in Fleabag and Killing Eve.

In 2020, Shaw starred in Ammonite, a film in which she plays an old lover of Kate Winslet’s lead character. Rather than thinking there was no evidence for a relationship between these historical figures, Shaw notes that “we have no evidence for their not having a relationship.” This allowed the actors scope to explore and surmise. “The normality of sexuality in the private sphere, before it was exposed and judged and quantified, which is a twentieth-century phenomenon, may well have been the situation.”

In 2018, Shaw married her wife, the Sri Lankan economist Sonali Deraniyagala.

Purchased, 2002

Stephen Doyle (b.1994)
Meditating Tongqui
2020, oil and mixed media on canvas

Created in the aftermath of a residency in Shanghai, with this work the artist sought to highlight “the millions of ‘Tongqui/Tongfu’ currently living in China. The term refers to homosexuals married to opposite sex partners because of an obligation to continue the family name or simply to avoid suspicion of being homosexual or for any number of personal or political reasons.”

Deep in thought, the figure balances and perhaps reflects on what might have been if circumstances were different.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry has described Doyle’s work as being “part of a tragically necessary resistance movement,” particularly at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ laws continue to be enacted: “Gays are becoming bellwethers, early warning beacons, alerting us to humanity’s direction of travel.”

Purchased, Royal Ulster Academy, 2020

CAG.3056 Stephen Doyle, Dylan Is Ainm Dom..., 2018, mixed media on board (oil and neon glass), 120 x 120 cm. Presented, 2019, for the Transgender Community in Ireland. © the artist
Stephen Doyle (b.1994)
Dylan is ainm dom…
2018, mixed media on board (oil and neon glass)

As its Irish language title indicates (My name is Dylan), this portrait of seventeen-year-old Dylan explores contemporary concerns with self-identity in Ireland.

The setting is near Dylan’s home in Lucan, County Dublin. The combination of landscape and oil paint echo heritage and tradition, yet the bold neon implies an ‘otherness’. Of this the artist notes: “this juxtaposition is not unlike how queer culture has developed outside wider society.”

Shortlisted for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2018, this work is thought to be the first to enter the national collection that openly discusses transgender identity.

Stephen Doyle is a visual artist whose works addresses queer identity and queer culture. The artist hopes that “any transgender individual who sees the work will be able to connect with it and know that they belong.”

Presented for the Transgender Community in Ireland, 2019

James Barry
James Barry (1741-1806)
The Prince of Wales in the Guise of St. George
c.1789-90, oil on canvas

This painting was purchased in 1807 by Cooper Penrose of Cork at a Christie’s auction in London. The proceeds of the sale enabled the youngest child of the artist’s sister to attend Edinburgh Medical School. To do so, Margaret Ann Bulkley from Merchant’s Quay assumed the guise of ‘James Miranda Steuart Barry’ and presented as male for the rest of their life. Dr Barry became a noted military surgeon, served in Cape Town, Jamaica, Saint Helena, and Corfu, and rose to the rank of Inspector General.

We will never know if Dr James Barry would have identified themself as transgender, but they left instructions on their death for no post-mortem to be carried out. This was presumably so that their gender identity was never questioned. We therefore use the gender-neutral pronouns they/them out of respect.

Purchased, 1930

Margaret Clarke
Margaret Clarke RHA (1884-1961)
Portrait of Lennox Robinson
1926, oil on canvas

Born in Douglas, Robinson was first inspired to become a playwright by attending Abbey Theatre productions of the plays of Lady Augusta Gregory and W.B. Yeats in the neighbouring Cork Opera House.

Although he married artist and theatre designer Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Travers Smith in 1931, their marriage was an unhappy one. This is perhaps owing to Robinson’s homosexuality and alcoholism. Homosexuality was, at the time, criminalised under Irish law and remained so until 1993. As such, the ability for LGBTQ+ people to live authentically was not only limited, but in many instances impossible. This led many queer people – like the writer Kate O’Brien – to emigrate, yet actors Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir navigated such restrictions. They founded the Gate Theatre, which led some to nickname it and the Abbey Theatre as ‘Sodom and Begorrah’.

Purchased, Dawson Gallery, 1950
(Gibson Bequest Fund)

Patrick Hennessy, Self Portrait and Cat, 1978.
Patrick Hennessy RHA (1915-1980)
Self Portrait and Cat
1978, oil on canvas

Misunderstood for decades, Hennessy has recently been repositioned by Seán Kissane (Irish Museum of Modern Art) as an important Irish queer artist. Traces of queer culture and homosexual identity may be found encoded within many of the artist’s works.

In this self-portrait painted late in life, the artist depicts himself with ‘his trademark dark glasses’ as a photograph in a catalogue that has been propped on a shelf or table. His gaze may be focused on the photo-realistic cat which may represent his younger, agile self, while a half-peeled orange may suggest the passage of time.

Hennessy met fellow artist Henry Robertson Craig while attending Dundee School of Art. Separated from each other during the Second World War, they reunited in 1946 and remained together until Hennessy died in 1980.

Purchased, 1979 (Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaíon & Crawford Art Gallery)

James Barry, Portraits of Barry and Burke in the Characters of Ulysses and a Companion fleeing from the cave of Polyphemus, c.1776, oil on canvas, 127 x 102 cm. Presented, Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, 1956.
James Barry (1741-1806)
Portraits of Barry and Burke in the Characters of Ulysses and his Companion Fleeing from the Cave of Polyphemus
c.1776, oil on canvas

Dating to c.1776, this painting “is a complex allegorical work that combines classical mythology, the politics of Barry’s day, and a strong autobiographical subtext.”

A masterpiece of the collection, it featured in Expulsion (2020), a recent exhibition from Kevin Gaffney in the gallery’s artist-directed programme. It was created as the practical component in the artist’s PhD research project, Resisting Homonormativity in Queer Filmmaking Practice, at Ulster University. The film Expulsion has recently been acquired for the National Collection and will be screened in the future.

Barry’s painting, and this room, also form the backdrop to Gaffney’s short video work, Retelling: Dr. James Miranda Barry and John Joseph Danson.

Presented, Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, 1956

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