seamus dubhghaill

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


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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 Mariga Guinness, Co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society

Mariga Guinness, architectural conservationist and socialite, and co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society, is born in London on September 21, 1932.

Guinness is born Hermione Maria-Gabrielle von Urach, the only child of the marriage of Albrecht von Urach, from Lichtenstein Castle, a member of the royal house of Wurtemberg, and Rosemary Blackadder (1901–1975) from Berwickshire in Scotland, a journalist and artist, who are married in Oslo, Norway in 1931. For the first few months of her life she is very ill. In 1934, her parents, both working as journalists, move the family to Venice. They later move again, to Japan. Her mother develops depression, and in 1937 tries to gain uninvited access to Emperor Hirohito‘s palace with her daughter. This results in her mother being arrested, sedated, and deported, which is the beginning of a decline in her mental health which culminates in a lobotomy in 1941 and spending the rest of her life in private mental institutions. Urach is returned to Europe, where she is raised by her godmother, Hermione Ramsden, in Surrey and Norway. She is educated by as many as seventeen governesses, with brief spells in boarding schools. Until the age of eighteen she is known as Gabrielle.

Urach meets Desmond Guinness in 1951, when she is nineteen, and they are married in Oxford in 1954. They have two children, Patrick (born 1956) and Marina (born 1957).

The couple moves to Ireland in 1955 where they rent Carton House, County Kildare. They share a love of Georgian architecture which results in them buying Leixlip Castle in 1958, and establishing the Irish Georgian Society on February 21 of the same year. Through the society they campaign for the restoration and protection of architectural sites such as Mountjoy Square, the gateway to the Dromana estate in County Waterford, the Tailors’ Hall in Dublin, and Conolly’s Folly in County Kildare. In 1967 they purchase Castletown House, also in County Kildare, with a plan to restore it, and make it a base for the Irish Georgian Society.

During the 1960s Leixlip Castle is a hub for those interested in architecture and conservation, and the Guinnesses work hands-on on a range of projects. By 1969, their marriage is in difficulties and Guinness moves to London. She later moves to Glenarm, County Antrim to live with Hugh O’Neill, and when that relationship ends, she returns to Leixlip Castle, but a divorce is finalised in 1981. Having lived in Dublin for a time, she rents Tullynisk House, the dower house of Birr Castle in County Offaly in 1983. Guinness becomes isolated and develops a problem with alcohol. While returning to Ireland from Wales on a car ferry on May 8, 1989 she has a massive heart attack which is compounded by a reaction to an injection of penicillin. She is buried at Conolly’s Folly.

Through Patrick, Guiness becomes grandmother of the fashion model Jasmine Guinness. Her daughter Marina is a patron of the arts and of Irish musicians including Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, and the band Kíla. Marina has three children of her own: Patrick (by Stewart Copeland of The Police), Violet (by photographer Perry Ogden), and Finbar (by record producer Denny Cordell).

In 2020, a new film on Guinness’s life and work, entitled Memory of Mariga, receives its United States premiere as part of the Elizabethtown Film Festival on Saturday, September 19, at the Crowne Pointe Theatre in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. In 2021, the same film receives its Irish premiere at the Fastnet Film Festival.


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Birth of Walter Beckett, Composer & Music Critic

Walter Beckett, Irish composer, teacher and music critic, is born on July 27, 1914 in Dublin. He is a cousin of the writer Samuel Beckett.

Beckett studies organ with George Hewson and harmony with John Francis Larchet at the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM), in addition to music at Trinity College Dublin where he is conferred with a Mus.D. (Doctor of Music) in 1942. He lives from 1946 to 1963 in Venice, where he teaches English and piano. He also writes reviews from abroad for The Irish Times and makes a series of orchestral arrangements of Irish traditional music for Radio Éireann.

In addition to Beckett’s activity as a music critic for The Irish Times, he also writes biographical articles for dictionaries, in particular for the first edition of Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. His books include studies on Franz Liszt and ballet music.

Beckett’s more ambitious musical works from the 1940s and 1950s are a Suite for Orchestra (1945), Four Higgins Songs (1946), The Falaingin Dances (1958) and a Suite of Planxties (1960) for harp and orchestra.

In 1963 Beckett moves to England, where he teaches music at various schools before returning to Ireland in 1970 to succeed A. J. Potter at the RIAM as professor of harmony and counterpoint. In the 1980s he produces a number of remarkable works such as Quartet for Strings (1980) and Dublin Symphony (1989) for narrator, chamber choir and large orchestra. While he is never a modernist, his later works nevertheless contain some advanced harmony, particularly in the quartet.

Beckett is forced to retire from the RIAM in 1985 after suffering a stroke. In 1986 he is elected a member of Aosdána and an Honorary Fellow of the RIAM in 1990. He dies in Dublin on April 3, 1996.


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Birth of Painter James Barry

james-barry-self-portraitJames Barry, Irish painter best remembered for his six-part series of paintings entitled The Progress of Human Culture in the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in London, is born in Water Lane (now Seminary Road) on the northside of Cork, County Cork on October 11, 1741.

Barry first studies painting under local artist John Butts. At the schools in Cork to which he is sent he is regarded as a child prodigy. About the age of seventeen he first attempts oil painting, and between that and the age of twenty-two, when he first goes to Dublin, he produces several large paintings.

The painting that first brings him into public notice, and gains him the acquaintance and patronage of Edmund Burke, is founded on an old tradition of the landing of Saint Patrick on the sea-coast of Cashel, although Cashel is an inland town far from the sea, and of the conversion and Baptism of the King of Cashel. It is exhibited in London in 1762 or 1763 and rediscovered in the 1980s in unexhibitable condition.

In late 1765 Barry goes to Paris, then to Rome, where he remains upwards of three years, from Rome to Florence and Bologna, and thence home through Venice. He paints two pictures while abroad, an Adam and Eve and a Philoctetes.

Soon after his return to England in 1771 Barry produces his painting of Venus, which is compared to the Triumph of Galatea of Raphael, the Venus of Urbino of Titian and the Venus de’ Medici. In 1773 he exhibits his Jupiter and Juno on Mount Ida. His Death of General Wolfe, in which the British and French soldiers are represented in very primitive costumes, is considered as a falling-off from his great style of art.

In 1773 Barry publishes An Inquiry into the real and imaginary Obstructions to the Acquisition of the Arts in England, vindicating the capacity of the English for the fine arts and tracing their slow progress to the Reformation, to political and civil dissensions, and lastly to the general direction of the public mind to mechanics, manufactures and commerce.

In 1774 a proposal is made through Valentine Green to several artists to ornament the Great Room of the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (now the Royal Society of Arts), in London’s Adelphi Theatre, with historical and allegorical paintings. This proposal is rejected at the time. In 1777 Barry makes an offer, which is accepted, to paint the whole on condition that he is allowed the choice of his subjects, and that he is paid by the society the costs of canvas, paints and models. He finishes the series of paintings after seven years to the satisfaction of the members of the society. He regularly returns to the series for more than a decade, making changes and inserting new features. The series of six paintings, The progress of human knowledge and culture, has been described by critic Andrew Graham-Dixon as “Britain’s late, great answer to the Sistine Chapel.”

Soon after his return from the continent Barry is chosen a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. In 1782 he is appointed professor of painting in the room of Edward Penny with a salary of £30 a year. In 1799 he is expelled from the Academy soon after the appearance of his Letter to the Society of Dilettanti, an eccentric publication, full of enthusiasm for his art and at the same time of contempt for the living professors of it. He remains the only academician ever to be expelled by the Academy until Brendan Neiland in July 2004.

After the loss of his salary, a subscription is set on foot by the Earl of Buchan to relieve Barry from his difficulties, and to settle him in a larger house to finish his painting of Pandora. The subscription amounts to £1000, with which an annuity is bought, but on February 6, 1806 he is seized with illness and dies on February 22. His remains are interred in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London on March 4, 1806.

(Pictured: James Barry, Self-portrait, 1803, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.)


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Birth of Soprano Catherine Hayes

Catherine Hayes, world-famous Irish soprano of the Victorian era, is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on October 25, 1818. According to London‘s Daily Express, “Hayes was the ‘Madonna‘ of her day; she was the 19th-century operatic equivalent of the world’s most famous pop star.”

Hayes is born into abject poverty. After five years of vocal study in Paris and Milan she makes her debut at the Italian Opera in Marseilles, in Vincenzo Bellini‘s I Puritani in May 1845, followed by performances of Gaetano Donizetti‘s Lucia di Lammermoor and Gioachino Rossini‘s Mosé in Egitto.

Her debut at La Scala in Milan quickly followed in 1845 with phenomenal success. Shortly thereafter the young Giuseppe Verdi becomes interested in her for one of his new operas. Her great success continues in Vienna, as well as in Venice, Florence, Genoa, Rome and other cities in Italy, where she becomes the most sought after Lucia di Lammermoor.

Early in 1849, Hayes accepts a contract to sing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London where she makes her debut in Linda di Chamounix in April. In June 1849, she receives an invitation to sing at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria and 500 guests. After an evening of Italian music, when the Queen requests an encore, Hayes with a smile sings the beautiful Irish rebel songKathleen Mavourneen.”

During Ireland’s Great Famine in November 1849, her emotional return to her native country results in rave notices for her performance in Lucia di Lammermoor and other operas and concerts in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. Her success is now almost complete.

In 1851 Hayes goes to the United States, where Jenny Lind is creating such a wave of success. Hayes gives concerts in New York City, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans and forty-five other places including the river towns along the Mississippi River, with equal success. She meets presidents, statesmen and business leaders along the way. She is also destined to meet her future lover and husband in America, Jenny Lind’s former manager. Her travels take her to the “gold rush” in the San Francisco area in the 1850s, where her presence creates a furor, singing for the miners and the elite of San Francisco. The great showman P.T. Barnum sponsors her tour.

She sings in opera and concerts in Peru and Chile, then travels to Hawaii where she gives a concert before continuing on to Australia. Hayes is the first great European opera star to visit Australia. She is mentioned in most Australian history books about early culture in the young colony.  She also travels to Calcutta, India where she performs for the British Military and then on to Singapore and Batavia (Java) before returning to Australia for more opera and concerts.

Hayes returns to England in August 1856, after an absence of five years.  On October 8, 1857, at St. George’s, Hanover Square, she marries William Avery Bushnell. He soon falls into ill-health and dies at Biarritz, France, on July 2, 1858. After her husband’s death she takes part in concerts in London and the country towns.

Catherine Hayes dies in the house of a friend, Henry Lee, at Roccles, Upper Sydenham, Kent, on August 11, 1861, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.