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Work of the Week | 27 February 2023

CAG.2440 Séamus Murphy, Deirdre (of the Sorrows), 1933, bronze, 42 x 32 cm. Presented, 2006 (Great Southern Collection). © the artist’s estate.

There’s more than meets the eye with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Deirdre (of the Sorrows) (1933) by Séamus Murphy is a bronze sculpture depicting the head of a woman.

The artist was inspired by John Millington Synge’s three-act play, Deirdre of the Sorrows (1909), which was itself inspired by the Ulster Cycle myth, Deirdre an Bhróin. The figure of Deirdre holds major significance in Irish legend and has found comparison in the mythical Helen of Troy.

Rather than representing a reclining or sleeping head, however, Murphy appears to depict her in the moment of death, Deirdre having thrown herself from a chariot.

Did you know: Deirdre (of the Sorrows) exists in two plaster and four bronze versions. Three of these are in the Collection – two plaster, one bronze – and offer insights into the process of making. Given the material’s ease of use and relative inexpensiveness, plaster (or clay) is the first iteration. Once an artist is satisfied with their modelling of a sculpture, a mould (or moulds) can be made for casting in bronze.

In 1921, while still a teenager, Séamus Murphy (1907-1975) enrolled in sculpture modelling in the Gallery’s building when it functioned as the Crawford Municipal School of Art. Ten years later, he received a Gibson Bequest Scholarship which enabled him to study in Paris. His memoir, Stone Mad, was published in 1949 and five years later, in 1954, he became a full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Deirdre (of the Sorrows) (1933) by Séamus Murphy is featured in BEHIND THE SCENES: Collection at Work until 10 April.

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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