April 1916

1916 Portraits and Lives

The Royal Irish Academy

The people
The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection that took place in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans, who aimed to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798. The '1916 Portraits and Lives' project looks at a variety of people - men and women, British and Irish, belligerents and pacifists- involved in the events of Easter week one-hundred years ago.

Thomas Clarke was born on the Isle of Wight and educated in Dungannon. He was arrested in 1883 while on a Fenian bombing mission in London and spent 15 years in prison. After a period in New York, he returned to Ireland in 1907 and helped reinvigorate the Irish Republican Brotherhood, steering it steadily towards insurrection. Clarke was the first signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic. He served in the GPO during Easter Week and was executed on 3 May 1916.

Born in London, Matthew Nathan was under-secretary for Ireland during the Rising. His approach to affairs complied with that of Augustine Birrell, the chief secretary, which was to exercise the maximum possible conciliation of the widest possible range of interests in Ireland. Working in Dublin Castle, the outbreak of the rising caught him by surprise as insufficient and defective intelligence from army and police resulted in his misjudgement of the situation.

Patrick Pearse, schoolteacher and revolutionary, was the author and one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic. He commanded the republican forces during Easter Week, ordering their surrender on 29 April. He was executed on 3 May 1916.

James Connolly was a socialist activist, theorist and polemicist in Dublin, Belfast and America. He was an organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, a founder of the Irish Labour Party and prominent in the 1913 Lockout in Dublin. He commanded the Irish Citizen Army, fighting in the GPO as commandant-general of the republican forces.

Constance Markiewicz was second-in-command of a troop of Citizen Army combatants at St Stephen's Green. Originally sentenced to death for her role during the Rising, her sentenced was commuted due to her sex. She was later the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, although she would not take her seat.

Born John Colthurst Bowen in Cork, he joined the British Army and was posted to the 11th Rifle Brigade in Portobello Barracks, Dublin. On duty during Easter Week, he murdered a number of civilians, including the pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, and later fatally shot the captured Volunteer Richard O'Carroll. He was court-martialled for his actions and later found guilty but insane.

Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was a non-smoking, teetotaller, vegetarian, pacifist and feminist. A self-proclaimed crank: 'A small instrument that makes revolutions'. During the Rising he attempted to organise a civilian defence force to prevent looting. He was arrested while walking home and fell into the hands of Captain John Bowen Colthurst who ordered him and two other civilians to be shot, without trial, in Portobello Barracks.

The project
The Royal Irish Academy and Office of Public works decided to publish a book of biographies of the people whose lives were, in one way or another, deeply involved in the Easter Rising. The biographies were extracted from the Academy's Dictionary of Irish Biography project. Artist David Rooney was commissioned to illustrate the book, creating new and original portraits of each of the subjects.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography currently contains almost 9,900 ‘lives’ of prominent men and women born in Ireland, and the noteworthy Irish careers of those born outside Ireland. The scope of the dictionary extends from the earliest times to the twenty-first century. It is an indispensable work of reference for scholars, journalists, broadcasters, diplomats, and the general reader interested in Ireland’s past or in biography. The online edition is updated twice yearly.

Illustrator David Rooney is a graduate of Ireland's National College of Art and Design. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and Hotpress. His artwork also features in publications by The Folio Society, London, and in cultural centres such as the Titanic Experience, Belfast; King John’s Castle, Limerick; and the Stonehenge visitor centre.

Creating the Portraits
The technique behind creating the portraits

While drafting the portraits, the illustrator and the editors, James Quinn and Lawrence William White, worked closely together to ensure the details in the images fit accurately in time, as well as in keeping with the subject matter. For example, depicting Margaret Skinnider's hat was debated, as she would have switched between wearing a military cap and a civilian lady's hat depending on her duties as sniper or messenger.

The illustration process begins with a pencil sketch of the subject. The pencil sketch is then transferred onto a white chalk-board that is then covered completely in black ink. Once the ink has dried, the underneath drawing is scraped out, using a surgical scalpel, to reveal the finished artwork.

The 42 portraits created for the book have been acquired by the Office of Public Works and are now a part of the State Collection.

From March 2016, the portraits will go on display in an exhibition in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.
The book and limited edition signed prints are available online.

Credits: Story

1916 Portraits and Lives is published by the Royal Irish Academy and the Office of Public Works.
For more information please visit www.ria.ie

All illustrations by David Rooney.
Photograph by John Ohle.
Exhibit created by Jeff Wilson j.wilson@ria.ie

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile