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WORK OF THE WEEK | 24 December 2018

CAG.395 Edith Somerville, The Goose Girl, 1888, oil on canvas, 95.5 x 132 cm.

WORK OF THE WEEK! It’s that time of year when, as tradition has it, a big bird becomes a focal point of many a Christmas dinner table. It is this that Edith Somerville likely had in mind when conceiving of The Goose Girl (1888).

The painting depicts a young West Cork girl, barefoot and seated on the floor, as she clutches a favoured goose, perhaps her pet, in her hands. As is evident from Maryann’s expression, not to mention the vegetables and cooking utensils gathered around her, the goose is destined for a future meal. In the girl’s pout and tearful eyes, the artist sensitively captures the injustice often felt in youth about adult decisions. Her style, with its superb still life details (she acquired the white goose for three shillings!), echoes a form of French Peasant Realism popular during her education in Paris.

Edith Anna Œnone Somerville (1858-1949) was born in Corfu but grew up at Drishane, her family home in Castletownshend, County Cork. In the 1880s, she studied art in Paris at Académie Colarossi. Sketches from this time are held in our collection, while The Goose Girl shows the impact of her French academic training. An agriculturist, huntswoman, organist, and Suffragette, she is best remembered, however, for her writing partnership with Violet Martin (1862-1915). They published 14 works, including The Real Charlotte (1894) and The Irish RM stories, together under Somerville & Ross.

The Goose Girl (1888) by Edith Somerville is on display in HEROES & VILLAINS (Floor 1) until 14 April 2019.

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