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WORK OF THE WEEK | 16 September 2019

CAG.2484 / CAG.2485 Séamus Murphy, Bob and Joan, n.d., plaster, after eighteenth-century lead originals, H 46 cm / 47 cm. Donated, Séamus Murphy Family, 2006. © the artist’s estate.

Our WORKS OF THE WEEK depict a boy and a girl – popularly known as Bob and Joan. They are smaller versions of the originals (now found at St Anne’s Church, Shandon) which once graced the pillars of a nearby school.

Founded in 1716, and operating until the 1940s, the Green-Coat Hospital School offered elementary education to poor Cork children – twenty boys and twenty girls – aged between 7 and 12.

Although Séamus Murphy (1907-1975) attended a different school (St Patrick’s National School), between 1922 and 1930 he was an apprentice at the nearby stoneyard of Aloysius O’Connell in Blackpool. It is perhaps at this time that he first became aware of the two lead statues of Bob and Joan in the Shandon area.

From the age of 14, Murphy also took classes at the, then, Crawford School of Art (now CIT Crawford College of Art & Design) in our present building where he studied our collection of plaster casts. Carving a tulip in soft stone, the artist remembers in his memoir Stone Mad (1966) that one of the carvers showed him how to hold the chisel: ‘Keep all the pressures on your small finger, boy. Like this, and you’ll find it’ll come easy to you in a few days. And don’t worry about the tulip, there’s more where that came from.’

Bob and Joan by Séamus Murphy are featured in SEEN, NOT HEARD, which is open daily until 28 October 2019.

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