seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Birth of Mary Swanzy, Landscape & Genre Artist

Mary Swanzy, Irish landscape and genre artist, is born in Dublin on February 15, 1882. Noted for her eclectic style, she paints in many styles including cubism, futurism, fauvism, and orphism, she is one of Ireland’s first abstract painters.

Swanzy is the second of three daughters of Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy, an eye surgeon, and his wife Mary (née Denham). She attends Alexandra College, Earlsfort Terrace, a finishing school at the Lycée in Versailles, France, and a day school in Freiburg, Germany. This education means that she is fluent in French and German. She goes on to take art classes at Mary Manning‘s studio, under the direction of John Butler Yeats. Manning encourages her to study modelling with John Hughes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art.

Living within walking distance of the National Gallery of Ireland, she spends a lot of time studying and copying the great masters. Her first exhibition is with the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1905 with Portrait of a child, continuing to exhibit portraits every year until 1910. In 1905 she goes to Paris and works at the Académie Delécluse, an atelier-style art school. She goes on to attend the studio of Antonio de La Gándara in 1906, and takes classes at Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Académie Colarossi. While in Paris she is exposed to the works of Gauguin, Matisse, and Picasso, which make a lasting impression on her.

On her return to Dublin, Swanzy paints portraits and genre scenes and holds her first show at Mill’s Hall, Merrion Row in 1913. She holds another show there in 1919, where she exhibits nearly 50 pieces. This exhibition is reviewed by Sarah Purser who notes the lack of melancholy and light optimism in Swanzy’s Irish landscapes. Swanzy paints in a number of styles, often reflecting the major art developments in Paris.

After the deaths of her parents, she is financially independent and can travel, spending her time between Dublin and Saint-Tropez during World War I while continuing to paint. She also exhibits with the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1914 and 1916, being elected to the committee in 1920. While visiting her sister who is involved with the Protestant relief mission in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, she paints landscapes, village life, and peasant scenes. These works are shown in the autumn of 1921 in the Dublin Painters’ Gallery with six other artists including Jack Butler Yeats, Paul Henry, and Clare Marsh with whom she shares a studio.

Swanzy begins to travel to more exotic countries from the 1920s, Honolulu around 1923, and later Samoa. As a result, she paints local tropical flowers, trees, and native women, with a palette and style similar to that of Fauvism. She stays for a time in Santa Barbara, California, working in a local studio and exhibiting some of her Samoan work at the Santa Barbara Arts Club Gallery. She returns to Ireland in February 1925 and exhibits three of her Samoan paints at the RHA, and 14 at her one-woman show in the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris in October 1925. Gertrude Stein writes her to congratulate her on her Paris exhibition.

In the mid 1920s Swanzy settles in Blackheath, London, making regular trips to Dublin and abroad. In 1932 Purser holds an exhibition of Swanzy’s work for invited guests in her house. At this time her painting is influenced by orphism and is reviewed positively. Her work becomes more allegorical in later years, with The message in the Hugh Lane Gallery demonstrating this. During World War II she stays with her sister in Coolock for three years. In 1943, she holds a one-woman show at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery, and is also featured at the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art. She is exhibited at St. George’s Gallery, London in 1946 along with Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, and William Scott.

Swanzy is made an honorary member of the RHA in 1949, showing with them in 1950 and 1951. She does not exhibit in Ireland for a number of years, but the Hugh Lane Gallery holds a major retrospective of her work in 1968. Following this she holds two one-woman shows at the Dawson Gallery in 1974 and 1976. In 1975 she is featured at the Cork ROSC art exhibition and resumes showing with the RHA. She continues to paint until her death at her home in London on July 7, 1978.

In 1982 the Taylor Galleries holds an exhibition to mark the centenary of Swanzy’s birth. More recently she is featured in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) 2013 exhibition Analysing Cubism. From October 2018-February 2019, also in IMMA, she is the subject of the solo exhibition Mary Swanzy Voyages.

(Pictured: Sunlit Landscape, oil-on-canvas, by Mary Swanzy)


Leave a comment

Death of Michael Dwyer, Journalist & Film Critic

Michael Dwyer, journalist and film critic who writes for The Irish Times for more than 20 years, dies following a lengthy illness on January 1, 2010. He previously fills this role for the Sunday Tribune, The Sunday Press and the magazine In Dublin.

Born on May 2, 1951, Dwyer is originally from Saint John’s Park in Tralee, County Kerry. His mother, Mary, outlives him. He has two sisters, Anne and Maria. As a young man in the early 1970s he takes part in the Tralee Film Society, for which he provides notes to The Kerryman. At this time he is employed by the County Library in Tralee. He begins working for In Dublin followed by the Sunday Tribune and The Sunday Press.

Dwyer first travels to the Cannes Film Festival in 1982 and attends every one until 2009, months before his death. In 1985, he co-founds the Dublin Film Festival and directs it until the mid-1990s. In 2002, he co-founds the Dublin International Film Festival, of which he is the chairman. In later life he serves on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

In the 1990s, Dwyer presents the film show Freeze Frame for public service broadcaster RTÉ. The show results from a friendship he had formed with Alan Gilsenan and Martin Mahon of Yellow Asylum Films. He is also known for his appearances on the radio shows Morning Ireland and The Marian Finucane Show. The editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, speaking after Dwyer’s death, says he was an “enthusiastic advocate” of both national and international cinema and had once said he was “one of those lucky people in life who was able to pursue his interests and call them work.”

Dwyer becomes unwell following a trip to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2009. He takes a break from writing for The Irish Times, returning in December 2009 to contribute his first, and what is to be his last ever, piece in six months to weekly entertainment supplement The Ticket. The article is a review of cinema in 2009 and of the 2000s, and in his contribution he references the ill health which had haunted him for much of the previous year and which had prevented him from viewing any cinema releases between June and September.

Dwyer dies at the age of 58 on January 1, 2010. His partner of 24 years, Brian Jennings, survives him. Irish Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen says Dwyer was “the most singular, significant influence on cinema in Ireland for more than three decades.” President of the Labour Party Michael D. Higgins says his work was “incalculable […] he was an activist in promoting a knowledge and appreciation of film in all its forms.” Ireland’s former Director of Film Classification at the Irish Film Classification Office John Kelleher says it was “a huge loss for the world of Irish film.” There are tributes from Gabriel Byrne, Daniel Day-Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Cillian Murphy and Jim Sheridan. The Irish Times publishes tribute pieces on his life.

A ceremony takes place at the Church of the Holy Name in Ranelagh where Dwyer lived. The event is attended by notable politicians, journalists, artists, actors, writers and musicians. RTÉ newsreader Aengus Mac Grianna, a colleague of Jennings, reads a tribute to Dwyer. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a very special tribute at the church service to his dear friend of over 20 years, calling for the Jameson International Dublin Film Festival to be renamed in Dwyer’s honour.

Dwyer is cremated after the funeral on January 5, 2010.


Leave a comment

Birth of Irish Artist Charles Harper

skellig-arrival-by-charles-harperIrish artist Charles Harper is born on July 30, 1943 on Valentia Island in County Kerry. He studies at the National College of Art and Design, Limerick School of Art and Design and the Graphic Studio in Dublin. He is taught by Maurice MacGonigal and Seán Keating. He also studies filmmaking in Germany.

Harper exhibits regularly in Ireland and abroad. His paintings are well known for their metaphoric themes, including boats, the human form, landscape and angels usually in painterly expressive form.

Harper is influenced by Francis Bacon and David Hockney which is apparent in his portrait work. In his treatment of the human head, the influence of Bacon is obvious as is the work of the Irish artist Louis Le Brocquy. He is also influenced by the Irish artist Patrick Collins. For Harper the actual act of painting is what matters as he sees the actual process as one of exploration and discovery. He says, “the process, the making excites me more than any end product.”

Harper represents Ireland at International Biennials in many countries throughout his career. He receives many national awards for his painting, including first prize for his work commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, the Carrols Open Award at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in Dublin and The Arts councils Bonn an Uachtarain de Hide at the Oireachtas Art Exhibition. More recently he is awarded the BulBulia Award at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 2008.

Harper’s work is included in many important public and private collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Irish Arts Council. He is also a member of Aosdána and the Royal Hibernian Academy.

“Painting being a cultural and creative activity should be accessible to all. Though it may also confuse the viewer. I find this totally understandable and acceptable, as art should challenge our perception and established aesthetic.”

(Pictured: Skellig Arrival, acrylic on linen by Charles Harper)


Leave a comment

National Day of Commemoration 2017

national-day-of-commemoration-2017President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar lead the ceremony to mark the National Day of Commemoration at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Kilmainham, Dublin on July 9, 2017. The event is a multi-faith service of prayer and a military service honouring all Irish people who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations. Events are also held in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Kilkenny and Waterford.

The National Day of Commemoration is held on the Sunday closest to July 11, the anniversary of the date the truce was signed in 1921 to end the Irish War of Independence.

Leaders from Christian, Coptic Christian, Jewish and Islamic denominations read or sing prayers and readings, and President Higgins lays a laurel wreath. The service is observed by more than 1,000 guests, including Government Ministers, the Council of State, which advises the Taoiseach, members of the judiciary, members of the diplomatic corps, TDs and Senators, representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations and relatives of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The national flag is lowered to half-mast while the “Last Post” and “Reveille” are sounded. After a minute of silence, a gun salute is sounded and the flag is raised again before the national anthem is played with a fly-by by three Pilatus PC-9 aircraft.

The Army band of the 1st Brigade and pipers play music including “Limerick’s Lament” and “A Celtic Lament” as guests arrive at the quadrangle of the former British Army veterans’ hospital, now the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The prayer service begins with Imam Sheikh Hussein Halawa of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, father of Ibrahim Halawa, who is in prison in Cairo, singing verses from the Quran in Arabic and praying in English, “I ask Allah, the Mighty, the Lord, to bless our country, Ireland, and give the people of our country a zeal for justice and strength for forbearance.”

Soloist Sharon Lyons sings hymns between prayers and readings from all denominations, ending with Rabbi Zalman Lent: “May the efforts and sacrifice of those we honour today be transformed into the blessing of people throughout the world.”

Speaking to reporters, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral Mark Mellett says more than 650 personnel are serving in eleven countries and on the Mediterranean Sea. “In the Defence Forces we have over 80 people who have given their lives in the cause of peace internationally, and I think it’s a sign of a State that recognises those who give this service,” he says. “The military of our State serve the political and serve the people. And it’s this loyalty to the State which is actually critical, and I’m delighted that we have a day like this.”

Mellett’s views are echoed by former sergeant Denis Barry, who says 47 Irish soldiers died in Lebanon and it is important to pay respects for that sacrifice. “None of us who served ever thought we would see the day we could travel in Lebanon without weapons, heavy armaments or flak jackets.” That United Nations mission paid off, he says.

Former British soldier Ron Hammond says the event reflects positive developments, such as the creation of the veterans’ Union of British and Irish Forces. He served from 1960 to 1980 in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Irish Rangers, spending time in Germany, Canada, Yemen and north and south Africa. He joined the British rather than the Irish forces because at the time “a home posting in the Defence Forces was Collins Barracks and an overseas posting was the Curragh encampment.”

(From: “Irish military dead honoured in National Day of Commemoration” by Marie O’Halloran, The Irish Times, July 9, 2017)


Leave a comment

Death of Landscape Painter T.P. Flanagan

t-p-flanaganTerence Philip “T.P.” Flanagan, one of the finest landscape painters of his generation, passes away in Belfast on February 23, 2011 at the age of eighty. For more than 60 years he shapes the face of landscape painting in Northern Ireland and is known internationally for his rural scenes of his native County Fermanagh and County Sligo. With his stunning watercolours and intricate brush strokes, he is described as one of the most successful artists of his generation. Poet Seamus Heaney, who dedicates his 1969 poem Bogland to Flanagan, pays tribute saying “he was a teacher and a friend whose work held a deep personal significance.”

Flanagan is born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh in 1929. When he is in his late teens, he learns the art of watercolour painting from the famous local portraitist and landscape artist Kathleen Bridle. Later, he paints her portrait, which now hangs in the Ulster Museum, and interviews her in a film of her life and art, which is produced shortly before her death in 1989.

After his time with Bridle, Flanagan attends Belfast College of Art from 1949-1953. The following year he joins the teaching staff at St. Mary’s College of Education, where he remains for 28 years, eventually becoming Head of the Art Department.

Flanagan spends the majority of his painting career in Ireland, but his landscapes have received wide attention and his work has been recognised both in Ireland and abroad. His first solo exhibition is held at the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), Belfast in 1961. He also shows regularly at the Hendriks Gallery in Dublin and at the Tom Caldwell Gallery in Belfast during the 1970s and 1980s. He participates in many group exhibitions, including “Four Ulster Painters” at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol (1965), “Two Irish Painters” (with Colin Middleton) at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, (1968) and is represented in “The Gordon Lambert Collection Exhibitions” held at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (1972) and the Ulster Museum (1976). In addition, he exhibits at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin and at the Royal Ulster Academy Of Arts (RUA) in Belfast.

Abroad, Flanagan’s works are exhibited at the Armstrong Gallery, New York (1986) and the Concept Gallery, Pittsburgh. A retrospective of his painting from the period 1967-1977 is held at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1977. In 1995, the Ulster Museum stages a major retrospective of his paintings (1945-1995). Other retrospectives are held at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Stadsmusueum, Gothenberg, Sweden. His paintings are also included in the show “A Century of Irish Painting” organized by the Hugh Lane Gallery which tours Japanese museums in 1995.

As an artist, Flanagan works in oils as well as his preferred watercolours, although by rapid application of the paint with minimal overworking, even his oils manage to retain the luminous colouring of the watercolourist. He specializes in landscape painting within his native County Fermanagh and the adjoining County Sligo, his methods being ideally suited to capturing the soft atmospheric light of Ireland’s northwest.

Flanagan is elected associate of the RUA in 1960, a full member in 1964, and President 1978-82. During his long career, he receives numerous commissions and other awards for his works, which are represented in the collections of The Arts Councils of Ireland & Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, and the National Self-Portrait Collection, Limerick.

Flanagan dies suddenly on February 23, 2011. His funeral takes place at St. Brigid’s Church in south Belfast and is buried at St. Michaels’ Church in Enniskillen.

The auction record for a work by T.P. Flanagan is set in 2009, when his landscape painting, entitled Castlecoole From Lough Coole, is sold at Christie’s, London, for £20,000.

(From Encyclopedia of Visual Artists In Ireland, visual-arts-cork.com)


Leave a comment

Construction of Royal Hospital Kilmainham Begins

royal-hospital-kilmainhamThe first stone of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Kilmainham, Dublin, is laid by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, on April 29, 1680. Completed in 1684, it is one of the finest 17th-century buildings in Ireland.

The hospital is built by Sir William Robinson, official State Surveyor General of Ireland for James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to King Charles II, as a home for retired soldiers of the Irish Army and continues in that use for over 250 years. The style is based on Les Invalides in Paris with a formal facade and a large courtyard. The Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London is completed two years later and also has similarities in style. A priory, founded in 1174 by Strongbow, exists on the site until the English close it down in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s.

The Richmond Tower at the end of the formal avenue leading to the Royal Hospital is designed by Francis Johnston, one of the leading architects of the day. This gateway originally stands beside the River Liffey at Bloody Bridge (now Rory O’More Bridge), but has to be moved after the arrival of the railway in 1844 increases traffic congestion. Johnston places his personal coat of arms above the arch, concealed by a piece of wood painted to match the stone, his idea being that his arms would be revealed to future generations after the wood becomes rotten. However, his little trick is uncovered when the gateway is taken down for removal. The coat of arms currently on the gateway is that of the Royal Hospital.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham graveyards, including Bully’s Acre, are 400 metres to the west. A cross-shaft in the former cemetery may be the remains of a boundary cross associated with a ninth-century monastery located at this site.

Following the creation of the Irish Free State the Royal Hospital is considered as a potential home for Oireachtas Éireann, the new Irish national parliament. Eventually it is decided to keep parliament in its temporary home in Leinster House. The Hospital remains the home of a dwindling number of soldiers, before being variously used by the Garda Síochána and as a storage location for property belonging to the National Museum of Ireland. The large statue Queen Victoria which used to stand in the forecourt of Leinster House, before its removal in 1947, is stored in the main courtyard of the Hospital, as are various state carriages, including the famously spectacular State Coach of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The Royal Hospital Kilmainham is finally restored by the Irish Government in 1984 and controversially opens as the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Some people working in heritage organisations criticise the decision to demolish the eighteenth-century barrack rooms in one section of the quadrangle to create open spaces for the IMMA.

Every year on the National Day of Commemoration, the Sunday nearest July 11, the anniversary of the Truce that ends the Irish War of Independence, the President of Ireland, in the presence of members of the Government of Ireland, members of Dáil Éireann and of Seanad Éireann, the Council of State, the Defence Forces, the Judiciary and the Diplomatic Corps, lays a wreath in the courtyard in memory of all Irishmen and Irishwomen who have died in past wars and on service with the United Nations.

In recent years, Royal Kilmainham Hospital has become a popular location for concerts during the summer months. Acts such as Blur, Leonard Cohen, The Flaming Lips, Jack White and Public Enemy have played within the grounds in the past.


Leave a comment

Birth of Robert Ballagh, Artist, Painter & Designer

Robert “Bobby” Ballagh, artist, painter and designer, is born in Dublin on September 22, 1943. His painting style is strongly influenced by pop art. He is particularly well known for his hyperealistic renderings of well known Irish literary, historical or establishment figures.

Ballagh grows up in a ground-floor flat on Elgin Road in Ballsbridge, the only child of a Presbyterian father and a Catholic mother. He studies at Bolton Street College of Technology and becomes an atheist while attending Blackrock College. Before turning to art as a profession, he is a professional musician with the Irish showband Chessmen. He meets artist Michael Farrell during this period, and Farrell recruits him to assist with a large mural commission, which is painted at Ardmore Studios.

Ballagh represents Ireland at the 1969 Biennale de Paris. Among the theatre sets he has designed are sets for Riverdance, I’ll Go On, Gate Theatre (1985), Samuel Beckett‘s Endgame (1991) and Oscar Wilde‘s Salomé (1998). He also designs over 70 Irish postage stamps and the last series of Irish banknotes, “Series C,” before the introduction of the euro. He is a member of Aosdána and his paintings are held in several public collections of Irish painting including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the Ulster Museum, Trinity College, Dublin, and Nuremberg‘s Albrecht Dürer House.

In 1991, he co-ordinates the 75th anniversary commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, during which he claims he is harassed by the Special Branch of the Garda Síochána.

He is the president of the Ireland Institute for Historical and Cultural Studies, which promotes international republicanism. It is based at the new Pearse centre at 27 Pearse Street, Dublin, which is the birthplace of Pádraig Pearse in 1879.

In July 2011 it is reported that he might consider running for the 2011 Irish Presidential election with the backing of Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance. A Sinn Féin source confirms there has been “very informal discussions” and that Ballagh’s nomination is “a possibility” but “very loose at this stage.” However, on July 25 Ballagh rules out running in the election, saying that he has never considered being a candidate. His discussions with the parties had been about the election “in general” and he has no ambitions to run for political office.

That same month, Ballagh breaks ranks with his colleagues in the travelling production of Riverdance in their decision to perform in Israel. He is an active member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which insists that artists and academics participate in boycotts of Israeli businesses and cultural institutions.

In July 2012, Ballagh says he is “ashamed and profoundly depressed” at the en masse closure of Irish galleries and museums. He cites an example of some Americans and Canadians on holiday in Ireland. “They described most of the National Gallery as being closed along with several rooms in the Hugh Lane Gallery. I’m glad they didn’t bother going out to the Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham because that’s closed too. At the point I met them, they were returning from Galway where they had found the Nora Barnacle Museum closed too.” He condemns the hypocrisy of political leaders, saying, “I know arts funding is not a big issue for people struggling to put food on the table but we are talking about the soul of the nation.”