CAG.2790 Aloysius O’Kelly, Corpus Christi Procession, c.1908, oil on canvas laid on board, 58 .5 x 39.5 cm. Presented to the State, 2012 (AIB Art Collection).
We’re marking the Feast of Corpus Christi (11 June) with this WORK OF THE WEEK!
As we patiently await the return of large public gatherings, Corpus Christi Procession (c.1908) by Aloysius O’Kelly captures a beautiful impression of one that is long since passed.
The painting presents three young figures in profile as they participate in a religious procession. Having trained under Jean-Léon Gérôme and Léon Bonnat at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Dublin-born artist here adopts an Impressionist style. Describing the particular effects of light and colour, summer warmth is communicated through earthy tones, which are set in contrast by the cool whites and blue shadows of the figures’ vestments.
The setting for the painting is likely north-western France, thus making this a depiction of a Breton celebration of La Fête-Dieu (Corpus Christi). Having visited Brittany in 1876, and subsequently moving to the fishing port of Concarneau, Aloysius O’Kelly (1853-1936) became one of the first Irish artists to live and work in the region. Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940) and William John Leech (1881-1968) would follow.
Although he emigrated to New York in 1895, O’Kelly would return to France on numerous occasions, completing this work and the similarly themed Ave Maria - procession religieuse en Bretagne (1909) around the same time.
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