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Work of the Week | 17 January 2022

CAG.767 Finola Leane, Circus, 1974, oil on board, 60.5 x 40.5 cm. Purchased, 1995. © the artist’s estate.

Roll up, roll up… We’re off to the circus with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Filled with colour and joy, Circus (1974) by Finola Leane captures all the anticipation, excitement, and energy a trip to the ‘Big Top’ can hold.

In the painting, proceedings are led by a finely dressed ringmaster in the foreground, while three performers circle behind him, precariously standing on horseback as they negotiate a series of hurdles! In the background, large red curtains signal the entrance to the large tent and rows of tiered seating are filled with eager crowds. A brass band plays in an elevated spot, which completes the busyness and noise of the scene.

It is interesting to note that Leane’s painting dates to a time when animals – such as elephants, tigers, and seals – were a regular feature of travelling circuses. 

Finola Leane (1922-2012) is often considered an ‘outsider artist’ given her pure and energetic style. Her subjects often focused on places of happy memories, such as beaches, circuses, and horse fairs. A native of County Limerick, she lived and worked in Listowel, County Kerry.

Feeling creative? Why not try out our circus-themed activities here:

Circus (1974) by Finola Leane is featured in MENAGERIE: Animals by Artists (Floor 1) until 6 March. Free entry | Open daily.

Tune into 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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