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Work of the Week | 17 April 2023

CAG.2065 Diarmuid O’Ceallacháin, The Fiddler, 1940s-70s, acrylic on canvas, 68 x 55 cm. Purchased, 2003. © the artist’s estate.


There’s more than meets the eye with The Fiddler by Diarmuid O’Ceallacháin. Begun in the 1940s, the artist reworked this painting in the 1970s, adding new elements as he did.

The main focus of O’Ceallacháin’s canvas is the eponymous fiddler – modelled on the artist’s brother, Denis – with the scene behind almost conjured from his playing. Two ‘shawlies’ (inner-city women wearing shawls) fill the middle-ground, while the background is composed of a view of the River Lee, St Patrick’s Bridge, and St Patrick’s Quay.

This was an area familiar to the artist who taught in our building (when it operated as Crawford School of Art) from 1940 through to 1970. His wife, Joan O’Sullivan, was from nearby Drawbridge Street.

Among the 1970s additions O’Ceallacháin made to this work is the car transporter crossing the bridge. This may be an allusion to his other brother, Paddy, who worked for Henry Ford & Sons in Cork’s docklands.

Fun fact: this painting has itself inspired Philip Martin to create a tribute to composer Aloys Fleischmann, while it also gives its name to a poem in Aidan Murphy’s Stark Naked Blues (1997).

Diarmuid O’Ceallacháin (1915-1993), who died thirty years ago this week (20 April), attended evening classes in our building in the 1930s. A Taylor Scholarship enabled him to study under Seán Keating and Maurice MacGonigal at the National College of Art and Design. Aside from his teaching career, he exhibited regularly at the Royal Hibernian Academy and Munster Fine Art exhibitions. A major retrospective was held at Crawford Art Gallery in 1991.

The Fiddler by Diarmuid O’Ceallacháin is featured in SITE OF CHANGE: Evolution of a Building.

The Arts House: Conor Tallon chats with curator Michael Waldron about a work from the Collection every Sunday morning on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork. You can listen back to this week’s chat here:


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