Irish texts responding to the visual arts
From 1903 to 1909, Patrick Pearse was the editor of the Gaelic League newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis. He wrote articles on an array of topics, including education, politics, religion, literature and art. Having pointed to the growth of national revivals in literature and industry, he here asks if art is yet ‘an expression of Ireland’.
The novelist George Moore had trained as an artist in Paris in the 1870s and come to know several painters associated with Impressionism.
To-morrow was a short-lived literary and artistic magazine that consciously courted controversy. Having recently returned from training in Germany, where he had come into contact with the Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) movement, the artist Cecil Salkeld here takes issue with Cubist artists ‘who maintain that Painting must be the contrast of purely abstract forms’.
This official government handbook from 1902 outlined Ireland’s chief economic resources. Alongside such sections as ‘the geographical and physiographical features of the country’, and the ‘economic distribution of the population’, it turns its attention to the provision for art education across Ireland.
Robert Elliott in Art and Ireland (1907) called for the Church to support native Irish artists when decorating its buildings. He writes of this relief by John Hughes: ‘It is, in the most forceful language that I can command – the work of an artist. It infects one with a feeling of a great and sorrowful joy.’
The poet Thomas MacGreevy was also an important writer on the visual arts. Printed just over a month after the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by the Dáil in 1922, this early article looks forward to the emergence amid Irish independence of ‘a genuinely Irish school … if political circumstances allow’.
After Dublin Corporation had failed to support the construction of a new building for the gallery of modern art in 1913, Hugh Lane removed his collection of continental paintings from the city. He died aboard the torpedoed liner the Lusitania only two years later, having in his will bequeathed these works to London’s National Gallery.
In a subsequent unwitnessed codicil, however, Lane had stated that the paintings should, after all, be given to Dublin. Years of legal and diplomatic wrangling over the fate of the pictures ensued. In 1931, President W.T. Cosgrave approached Thomas Bodkin, then director of the National Gallery of Ireland, to write an account of Lane and his pictures on behalf of the Free State.
Produced by the government of the Free State to mark the first decade of its existence, this 1932 handbook is a work of art in its own right. Its mapping of a remarkably wide range of aspects of Irish life and history includes chapters entitled ‘Early Christian Art in Ireland’, ‘Modern Irish Art’ and ‘Irish Architecture’.
Curation:Tom Walker and Jack Quin, School of English.
Technical assistance: Greg Sheaf, Digital Systems and Services.
Imaging: Gillian Whelan, Digital Resources and Imaging Services.