seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Arthur Armstrong, Landscape & Still Life Painter

Arthur Armstrong, landscape and still life painter who often works in a Cubist style, is born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on January 12, 1924. A prolific painter, completing up to 300 paintings a year, in oils, watercolour and mixed media, he regards himself first and foremost as an abstract artist.

Armstrong is the son of a house painter and attends Strandtown Primary School. Later he studies architecture at Queen’s University Belfast, but after two years he moves to study art at Belfast School of Art. The influence of Cubism and the School of Paris can be clearly seen in his work, which takes him to England, France and Spain. He also travels and paints in the west of Ireland and Connemara inspires some of his best work. In 1950 his work is exhibited in the Grafton Gallery in Dublin, and subsequent exhibitions take place in England, Spain and the United States, as well as in Belfast and Dublin. In 1957 he is awarded a travelling scholarship from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), a forerunner of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and goes to Spain. He eventually settles in Dublin in 1962 and begins showing work at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

In 1968 Armstrong is awarded the Douglas Hyde Gold Medal at the Oireachtas Exhibition. In 1969 he designs sets, with George Campbell and Gerard Dillon, for the Seán O’Casey play, Juno and the Paycock, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He becomes a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1972 and in 1973 he is awarded the Art in Context prize from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He becomes a member of Aosdána in 1981, the same year that a retrospective exhibition of his work from 1950 to 1980 is held by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

From 1971 Armstrong lives at 28 Chelmsford Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin, in a house he shares with Gerard Dillon. A bachelor, Armstrong dies in a Dublin hospital on January 13, 1996. The contents of his studio are sold February 3, 1998.

(Pictured: “Glendalough” by Arthur Armstrong, oil on board)


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Birth of English Playwright John Arden

John Arden, English playwright, is born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, on October 26, 1930. At the time of his death he is lauded as “one of the most significant British playwrights of the late 1950s and early 60s.”

Arden is the son of the manager of a glass factory. He is educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, King’s College, Cambridge and the Edinburgh College of Art, where he studies architecture. He first gains critical attention for the radio play The Life of Man in 1956 shortly after finishing his studies.

Arden is initially associated with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His 1959 play, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance, in which four army deserters arrive in a northern mining town to exact retribution for an act of colonial violence, is considered to be his best. His work is influenced by Bertolt Brecht and epic theatre as in Left-Handed Liberty (1965, on the anniversary of Magna Carta). Other plays include Live Like Pigs, The Workhouse Donkey, and Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, the last of which is performed at the 1963 Chichester Festival by the Royal National Theatre after it was rejected by the Royal Court.

Arden’s 1978 radio play Pearl is considered in a Guardian survey to be one of the best plays in that medium. He also writes several novels, including Silence Among the Weapons, which is shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1982, and Books of Bale, about the Protestant apologist John Bale. He is a member of the Royal Society of Literature.

With his wife and co-writer Margaretta D’Arcy, Arden pickets the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) premiere of his Arthurian play The Island of the Mighty, because they believe the production to be pro-imperialist. They write several plays together which are highly critical of British presence in Ireland, where he and D’Arcy live from 1971 onward.

In 1961, Arden is a founder member of the anti-nuclear Committee of 100, and he also chairs the pacifist weekly Peace News. In Ireland, he is for a while a member of Official Sinn Féin. He is an advocate of civil liberties, and opposes anti-terror legislation, as demonstrated in his 2007 radio play The Scam.

Arden is elected to Aosdána in 2011 before dying in Galway, County Galway on March 28, 2012. He is waked in a wicker casket.

(Pictured: Photograph of John Arden in 1966, credit to Sam Falk/The New York Times)


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Death of Sculptor Alexandra Wejchert

Alexandra Wejchert, Polish-Irish sculptor known for her use of perspex (plexiglass), stainless steel, bronze and neon colours, dies in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, on October 24, 1995.

Wejchert was born in Kraków, Poland on October 16, 1921. Her father is Tedeusz Wejchert, who ran a shipping business out of Gdańsk. She enters University of Warsaw to study architecture in 1939, and while there witnesses the German invasion of Poland during World War II. Having graduated in 1949, she works as a town planner and architect in Warsaw, where she graduates from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1956 with a degree before moving to Italy.

Wejchert holds her first solo show in 1959 in the Galeria dell’ Obelisco, Rome. She then returns to Warsaw where she is featured in the National Museum “Fifteen years of Polish art” exhibition in 1961. At this time she is still working as an architect, but does not support the social realism of Soviet architecture, which leads her to decide to concentrate solely on art from 1963. She leaves communist Poland in 1964, when she accompanies her younger brother, the architect Andrej Wejchert, when he and his wife Danuta moved to Dublin.

She holds her first solo show in Dublin in November 1966 with an exhibition of 30 paintings at The Molesworth Gallery. In 1967 she shows Blue relief at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, which is a wall relief of “sculpted paintings” which are precursors to her later free-standing sculpture. She wins the Carroll Open award of £300 at the 1968 Irish Exhibition of Living Art for Frequency No. 5. Also in 1968 she holds a solo exhibition in the Galerie Lamert, Paris, becoming a regular exhibitor there. During this period her work is used as a setting for an electronic music concert with the critic Dorothy Walker noting her designs have a rhythmic quality.

From the 1970s, Wejchert wins commissions for public art, starting with the 1971 wood and acrylic wall relief in the arts building at University College Dublin. In the same year, the Bank of Ireland purchases Blue form 1971 and then Flowing relief in 1972. Her 1971 triptych, Life, is commissioned for the Irish Life headquarters in Abbey Street. The Lombard and Ulster Bank in Dublin commissions untitled in 1980, and Allied Irish Banks (AIB) purchases Freedom in 1985 for their branch in Ballsbridge. Her entry wins a competition in 1975 for a stamp marking International Women’s Year, and features an image of hands reaching for a dove with an olive branch.

Wejchert becomes an Irish citizen in 1979, a member of Aosdána in 1981, and a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1995. She is recognised internationally when she is the only Irish sculptor included in Louis Redstone’s new directions (1981). She is shown at the Solomon gallery from 1989 numerous times, including a solo show in 1992. A number of her most important pieces are for Irish universities, such as Geometric form at the University of Limerick and Flame at the University College Cork in 1995, her last work.

Wejchert dies suddenly at her home on Tivoli Road, Dún Laoghaire on October 24, 1995. She has one son, Jacob. The RHA holds a posthumous exhibition of her work in 1995. She is said to have influenced the younger generation of Irish sculptors, including Vivienne Roche, Eilis O’Connell, and Michael Warren. Flame is selected to be a part of the Irish Artists’ Century exhibition at the RHA in 2000.

(Pictured: “Flame,” 1995, brass and granite, University College Cork. This sculpture commemorates the people who bequested their bodies to the UCC Anatomical Gift Programme for the purpose of science and learning. It represents the flame of knowledge which leads to the light of understanding.)