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WORK OF THE WEEK | 22 October 2018

CAG.1285 William Willes, Male Nude with One Knee Kneeling on a Plinth, undated, charcoal on paper, 54 x 36 cm.

WORK OF THE WEEK! We’re getting physical this week with a look at a life drawing by William Willes (c.1775-1851). Displayed as part of NAKED TRUTH: The Nude in Irish Art (13 July - 28 October 2018), it offers a fascinating glimpse into the Life Room of the 1830s and 40s.

One of some seventy drawings by the artist – which have been in our collection since c.1851 – it reveals how models held tense poses such as this with the aid of hoists. Check out the detail of the artist’s signature too, which is numbered and appears at bottom right.

William Willes, the son of an apothecary, was born in Brown Street (the west side of today’s Rory Gallagher Place), Cork. In his youth he took lessons from artist Nathaniel Grogan (1740-1807) and later spent some years in London studying at the Royal Academy. He helped to organise the first Munster Exhibition in 1815, at which he exhibited eight oil paintings and one watercolour. An accomplished draughtsman and sensitive colourist, he subsequently showed work at the British Institution, Royal Academy, and Royal Hibernian Academy.

Fun fact: Willes was appointed the new principal of the Cork School of Design (now CIT Crawford College of Art & Design) on 8 January 1850 and his lectures “displayed at once the ripeness of the scholar and the enthusiasm of the artist.”

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