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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Death of Patrick Hennessy, Irish Realist Painter

Patrick Anthony Hennessy RHA, Irish realist painter known for his highly finished still lifes, landscapes and trompe-l’œil paintings, dies in London on December 30, 1980. The hallmark of his style is his carefully observed realism and his highly finished surfaces, the result of a virtuoso painting technique.

Hennessy is born in Cork, County Cork, on August 28, 1915. The son of John Hennessy an army sergeant major from County Kerry and Bridget Hennessy from Cork. His father is killed in World War I at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. In 1921, when he is five years old, his mother remarries in Cork. Her second husband is a Scot named John Duncan and shortly afterwards the whole family moves to Arbroath, Scotland, where Duncan has relatives.

Hennessy is educated in Arbroath at St. Thomas RC Primary School followed by secondary education at Arbroath High School, where he begins to show an aptitude for art, leaving in 1933 with the Dux for Art and an accompanying medal. In the autumn of 1933 he enrolls at the Dundee of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, for a four-year Diploma course in Drawing and Painting under James McIntosh Patrick and Edward Baird. Here he meets Harry Robertson Craig who becomes his lifelong companion. He plays a full part in the social activities of the college, winning a fancy dress award at the Christmas revels in 1935 and producing a ballet “Paradise Lost” the following year. He gains a First Class Pass in each year of the course along with winning first prize in 1934 and 1936 for work done during the summer vacation. He graduates with a First Class Distinction in 1937.

Having gained a scholarship, Hennessy continues his studies at the Dundee of Jordanstone College of Art & Design for a further year by doing a Post-Graduate Diploma course in Drawing and Painting. Within a month of gaining his Post-Graduate Diploma he holds his first joint exhibition at the Art Galleries in Arbroath. In June 1938 he is awarded the Annual Travelling Scholarship for further studies in Paris and Italy. In Paris he meets up with the artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, whom he had met the previous year, the three travelling south together to Marseilles towards the end of that year. On his return to Scotland he is selected for the residential summer school course at Hospitalfield House near Arbroath under James Cowie. Two of his paintings, a still life and a self-portrait, are accepted that year by the Royal Scottish Academy for their Annual Exhibition. However, by the autumn of 1939 with war looming and feeling somewhat disenchanted on his return to Scotland, he decides to return to Ireland.

On arrival in Dublin Hennessy is offered an exhibition in December 1939 at the Country Shop on St. Stephen’s Green which is opened by Mainie Jellett. This attracts favourable attention. During the early 1940s he lives at various addresses in and around Dublin with frequent trips to Cork. In 1940 he is invited to join the Society of Dublin Painters and holds regular annual exhibitions of his work there during the 1940s and early 1950s. These exhibitions are supplemented by an eclectic mix of commissions, mostly portraits which he undertakes during this period. In 1941 he has three of his paintings accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) for their annual exhibition. This is the beginning of a long relationship with the RHA. He exhibits there virtually every year from 1941 until 1979, the year before his death.

From the early 1940s onwards, Hennessey’s work sometimes incorporates a homosexual visual subtext. He re-unites with Harry Robertson Craig in 1946 and soon after they move to Crosshaven, County Cork, and later to Cobh. In 1947, Time magazine selects him as one of Ireland’s outstanding painters, in recognition of the important position he has then attained in the art world. In 1948 he has an exhibition at the Victor Waddington Gallery, Dublin, and that same year is elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy and a full member the following year. In 1950 his painting De Profundis is selected for the Contemporary Irish Painting exhibition that tours North America. As a result of this tour, the American public and critics begin to take notice of his work. In 1951 he visits Italy, taking in Venice and Sicily and returning to Dublin with many of his canvases painted abroad. One of these paintings, Bronze Horses of St. Marks, is exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1954.

In 1956, a friend of Hennessy, David Hendriks, opens the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery on St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin and it is this gallery that is to be the main outlet for his work over the following 22 years. In October 1956 the Thomas Agnew Gallery in London holds an exhibition of his work comprising 38 of his paintings. However, during the winter of 1959 he becomes seriously ill with pneumonia. As a consequence of this, in the autumn of that year he and Craig decide to winter in Morocco. This is the beginning of a new era in both their lives. They would never again spend a full year in Ireland. His exhibitions at the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery had for many years enjoyed favourable reviews from the art critics but in the 1960s this changes with critics claiming his paintings to be dull, repetitive and suggest he needs to explore new areas. Despite the barrage of criticism, in 1965 the Guildhall Gallery in Chicago offers him a major exhibition. Shortly after this exhibition takes place in 1966 he becomes one of the artists on permanent display at the gallery with an annual exhibition. The North American market is extremely lucrative for him and by the end of the decade he is selling more of his work in the United States than in Ireland. In 1968 he finally moves to Tangier, Morocco on a permanent basis and in 1970 sells his studio on Raglan Lane, Dublin.

In Morocco, Hennessy paints prolifically for nine years to keep up with demand from the Hendriks Gallery and Guildhall Gallery along with the RHA. In 1975 the Guildhall Gallery mounts a highly successful Retrospective of his work. In 1978 he has his last exhibition in Dublin at the Hendriks Gallery. By this time he has moved to the Algarve, Portugal and is beginning to have health problems.

In November 1980, with his health deteriorating, Craig brings Hennessy to a hospital in London for treatment. However, on December 30, 1980 he dies from cancer. Following cremation his ashes are buried in nearby Golders Green Crematorium. He leaves his entire estate to Harry Robertson Craig with the proviso that on Craig’s death the Royal Hibernian Academy should be the beneficiary. This legacy has been used to set up the annual Hennessy Craig Scholarship for aspiring artists.

Hennessy falls into the category of painter who develops a distinctive personal style, labelled at various times in his life as a Traditional Realist, Romantic, Photo Realist, Illusionary and Surrealist. However, he always remains intrinsically himself. His subjects range from still life and interiors to landscapes and portraits.

Examples of Hennessy’s work can be found in the public collections of the Crawford Art Gallery, the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), the Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland (NSPCI) at the University of Limerick (UL), and in the collections of University College Cork (UCC) and University College Dublin (UCD).


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Birth of Irish American Painter William Harnett

william-michael-harnettWilliam Michael Harnett, Irish American painter known for his trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects, is born in Clonakilty, County Cork on August 10, 1848, during the time of the Great Famine.

Shortly after his birth Harnett’s family emigrates to the United States, settling in Philadelphia. Becoming a United States citizen in 1868, he makes a living as a young man by engraving designs on table silver, while also taking night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later, in New York City, at Cooper Union and at the National Academy of Design. His first known oil painting, a still life, dates from 1874.

The style of trompe-l’œil painting that Harnett develops is distinctive and inspired many imitators, but it is not without precedent. A number of Dutch Golden Age painters, Pieter Claesz for instance, had specialized in tabletop still life of astonishing verisimilitude. Raphaelle Peale, working in Philadelphia in the early 19th century, pioneers the form in America. What sets Harnett’s work apart, besides his enormous skill, is his interest in depicting objects not usually made the subject of a painting.

Harnett paints musical instruments, hanging game, and tankards, but also paints the unconventional Golden Horseshoe (1886), a single rusted horseshoe shown nailed to a board. He paints a casual jumble of second-hand books set on top of a crate, Job Lot, Cheap (1878), as well as firearms and even paper currency. His works sell well, but they are more likely to be found hanging in a tavern or a business office than in a museum, as they dds not conform to contemporary notions of high art.

still-life-violin-and-musicHarnett spent the years 1880–1886 in Europe, staying in Munich from 1881 until early 1885. His best-known paintings, the four versions of After The Hunt, are painted between 1883 and 1885. Each is an imposing composition of hunting equipment and dead game, hanging on a door with ornate hinges at the right and keyhole plate at the left. These paintings, like the horseshoe or currency depictions mentioned earlier, are especially effective as trompe-l’œil because the objects occupy a shallow space, meaning that the illusion is not spoiled by parallax shift if the viewer moves.

Overall, Harnett’s work is most comparable to that of the slightly younger John F. Peto. The two artists know each other, and a comparison can be made between two paintings featuring violins. Harnett’s Music and Good Luck from 1888 shows the violin hanging upright on a door with ornate hinges and with a slightly torn piece of sheet music behind it. The elements are arranged in a stable, deliberate manner. Peto’s 1890 painting shows the violin hanging askew, as well as chipped and worn, with one broken string. The sheet music is dog-eared and torn around the edges, and placed haphazardly behind the instrument. The hinges are less ornate, and one is broken. Harnett’s objects show signs of use but are well preserved, while Peto’s more humble objects are nearly used up.

Crippling rheumatism plagues Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but not the quality of his paintings. He dies in New York City on October 29, 1892. Other artists who paint similar compositions in Harnett’s wake include his contemporary John Haberle and successors such as Otis Kaye and Jefferson David Chalfant.

Harnett’s work is in collections in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, Texas), the Dallas Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Harvard Art Museums, the High Museum of Art (Atlanta, Georgia), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, Nebraska), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Art, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Madrid, Spain), the Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio), the Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, Connecticut), and the Wichita Art Museum (Wichita, Kansas) among others.

(Pictured: Music and Good Luck, oil on canvas by William Michael Harnett, 1888, Metropolitan Museum of Art)


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Death of Irish American Painter William Harnett

william-harnettWilliam Michael Harnett, Irish American painter known for his trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects, dies at New York Hospital on October 29, 1892.

Harnett is born in Clonakilty, County Cork, on August 10, 1848 during the time of the Great Famine. Shortly after his birth his family emigrates to America, settling in Philadelphia. Becoming a United States citizen in 1868, he makes a living as a young man by engraving designs on table silver, while also taking night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later, in New York City, at Cooper Union and at the National Academy of Design. His first known oil painting, a still life, dates from 1874.

The style of trompe-l’œil painting that Harnett develops is distinctive and inspired many imitators, but it is not without precedent. A number of 17th century Dutch painters, Pieter Claesz for instance, specialize in tabletop still life of astonishing verisimilitude. Raphaelle Peale, working in Philadelphia in the early 19th century, pioneers the form in America. What sets Harnett’s work apart, besides his enormous skill, is his interest in depicting objects not usually made the subject of a painting.

Harnett paints musical instruments, hanging game, and tankards, but also painted the unconventional Golden Horseshoe (1886), a single rusted horseshoe shown nailed to a board. He paints a casual jumble of second-hand books set on top of a crate, Job Lot, Cheap (1878), as well as firearms and even paper currency. His works sell well, but they are more likely to be found hanging in a tavern or a business office than in a museum, as they did not conform to contemporary notions of high art.

Harnett spent the years 1880–1886 in Europe, staying in Munich from 1881 until early 1885. Harnett’s best-known paintings, the four versions of After The Hunt, are painted between 1883 and 1885. Each is an imposing composition of hunting equipment and dead game, hanging on a door with ornate hinges at the right and keyhole plate at the left. These paintings, like the horseshoe or currency depictions mentioned earlier, are especially effective as trompe-l’œil because the objects occupy a shallow space, meaning that the illusion is not spoiled by parallax shift if the viewer moves.

job-lot-cheapOverall, Harnett’s work is most comparable to that of the slightly younger John F. Peto. The two artists know each other, and a comparison can be made between two paintings featuring violins. Harnett’s Music and Good Luck from 1888 shows the violin hanging upright on a door with ornate hinges and with a slightly torn piece of sheet music behind it. The elements are arranged in a stable, deliberate manner. Peto’s 1890 painting shows the violin hanging askew, as well as chipped and worn, with one string broken. The sheet music is dog-eared and torn around the edges, and placed haphazardly behind the instrument. The hinges are less ornate, and one is broken. Harnett’s objects show signs of use but are well preserved, while Peto’s more humble objects are nearly used up.

Crippling rheumatism plagues Harnett in his last years, reducing the number but not the quality of his paintings. He seeks relief in the waters at Karlsbad and Wiesbaden, Germany and later at Hot Springs, Arkansas. But he continues to worsen and is hospitalized several times. He dies in New York City in 1892.