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Work of the Week | 05 September 2022

CAG.2330 Geraldine O’Neill, Still Life – Leeks and Red Cabbage, undated, oil on canvas, 110 x 140 cm. Presented, 2006 (Great Southern Collection). © the artist.


Still Life – Leeks and Red Cabbage by Geraldine O’Neill is a sumptuously detailed painting of foodstuffs arranged on a table, from fish to fruit and vegetables to jars of pickles.

In this mixture of fresh and preserved foods, O'Neill forces unlikely objects to interact: the exotic watermelon side-by-side with the then more common – yet equally as beautifully rendered – red cabbage.

Drawing inspiration from The Melon (1960) – a still life by Norah McGuinness which is also in the collection – O'Neill endeavoured to track down a ‘nearly audacious’ watermelon to include in her own composition. This was no easy feat at the time, when the available variety of food was less globalized as it is today.

To acquire the fruit, the artist approached a Dublin wholesaler and was told to return to collect it a month later when they would have a small number in stock for hotels. O’Neill’s painting – which was commissioned by Eamonn McKeon (Great Southern Hotels) – now serves as a reminder that many of the foods we may have easy access to today were, not so long ago, extremely hard to come by and may be again.

Geraldine O’Neill (b.1971) lives and works in her native Dublin and has exhibited in Ireland, France, and the United States. The artist often works to large scale and, drawing on art history, considers transience, fragility, and the inevitability of decay. She is a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and Aosdána.

Still Life – Leeks and Red Cabbage by Geraldine O’Neill is featured in MEAT AND POTATOES until 6 November.

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