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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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