Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Moon worship', - Yeats, the West and the Art of Gerard Dillon

Yeats & the West is an exhibition focusing not just on the work and influence of W.B. Yeats, but on the influence on him and wider impact of people, landscapes, languages, crafts, arts, and music from the west of Ireland and beyond. A major addition to the exhibition is a rare oil painting by Gerard Dillon of a night-time scene featuring a moonlight vista of a ‘typical’ Connemara landscape, its figures recalling some lost play by J.M.Synge. These characters, a shawled woman and a virile, moondrunk (or just drunk) young man, bowed in ritual before a moonlit boghole, also appear as shades from out of Yeats’s western phantasmagoria, reminding a viewer of landscapes Yeats himself had created in his first book, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889) (a volume praised by Oscar Wilde and William Morris) – in particular these lines from his poem “Ephemera”:
‘Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.’
And then She:
‘Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, passion, falls asleep.
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!’
the Arrow (4)
The artist Gerard Dillon was born in Belfast in April 1916 and grew up there, until moving to London in 1934 where he worked a house painter while honing his craft and trying to further his career as an artist. Despite being reared and working in the early years of his life in the urban streetscapes of Belfast, Dublin and London, it was the west of Ireland, most especially Connemara and the western islands which would have a major and lasting effect and influence on his work. Dillon would spend the year of 1950-1951 living and painting on the island of Inislacken. Over the next decade Dillon would receive substantial international recognition for his expressionism steeped in western culture and imagery.
Gerard Dillon, Self Portrait at Roundstone
Gerard Dillon, Self Portrait at Roundstone
Dillon did not confine himself to painting. He produced designs for posters, playbills, theatre sets and costumes for productions by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in the late 1960s. Working as part of a trio, the artists Arthur Armstrong, Gerard Dillon and George Campbell made up the consortium known, alphabetically, as A.D.C. This group also designed the posters for the first three theatre production posters at the Abbey Theatre after it reopened in 1966 following a fire at the theatre more than ten years before. The programme, from the 1969 production of Juno and the Paycock, two years before Dillon’s death, states in a note that “the posters sprang from the belief that artists should be closely identified with all artistic efforts in the country.”
Gerard Dillon by George Campbell (c) Mrs Joyce Cooper.
Gerard Dillon by George Campbell (c) Mrs Joyce Cooper.
The programme also contains cartoon drawings of characters from the play including Juno and Captain Boyle by Micheal MacLiammóir. Other similar artwork by MacLiammóir can be seen in the exhibition in the bookplate he designed for the personal library of actor and director Arthur Shields, examples of which are on display in the exhibition cabinets.
Cartoons by Michael MacLiammor
Programme for Juno and the Paycock (Abbey 1969). Cartoons by Michael MacLiammóir
As central part of Yeats & the West, the painting ‘The Moon Worshipper’ by Gerard Dillon is on public exhibition for the very first time at the Special Collections Reading Room. Dating from 1948, the painting, in oils on sturdy wood panel, is a wonderful example from a series of moonscapes over Connemara inspired, according to the artist, by a walk home after a late night in Roundstone.
Preparing 'The Moon Worshipper' for hanging. Dillon has decorated the reverse of the panel with outline faces.
Preparing ‘The Moon Worshipper’ for hanging. The reverse of the panel has been decorated with outline faces.
With the style deliberately primitivist, and the woman wearing one of the red traditional Connemara costumes noted by Synge, the picture’s central enthusiast perhaps wrily recalls the impassioned western pilgrimages of so many artists and writers. The exhibition curators gratefully acknowledge the loan of the painting for the duration of the exhibition, which is open until Christmas at the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway.
Y West Reading Room (2)
The Dillon painting and other artworks by Jack B. Yeats on display at the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Photographs of Claddagh Village, 1939



In 1939 Dr. Heinrich Becker came to Galway to begin his studies on folklore associated with the Galway Bay area. The first place he visited was Claddagh village, where he gathered folklore associated with the long fishing tradition of the Claddagh.
As well as talking to people from the locality, he also brought he camera, taking snapshots of the Village at an interesting time, when it was in transition from the traditional fishing village at the edge of Galway - almost a place apart - being transformed by the social housing programme of the late 1930s brought in by the government.
 
As well as examples of the new housing, he also took photographs of examples of the older houses, many of which were abandoned at that stage.
 
In the background of some of the photographs shows the well-known Long Walk across the river Corrib from the Claddagh.

Perhaps one of the nicest photographs shows three boys in the corner of the photograph peering intently into the window of a sweet shop.
There are over 10,000 photographs, slides, negatives and contact prints in the collection, and it is the intention to have these described, scanned, and available for consultation in the coming months. In the meantime keep an eye on the blog here for more photographs from this fascinating collection.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Celebrating all things Joyce this Bloomsday

Front cover of 'Pomes Penyeach'
To celebrate this Bloomsday, we are looking beyond Ulysses and to some other Joycean treasures present in the collections of the Hardiman Library. One such item is an original, autographed edition of a collection of poems written by James Joyce entitled Pomes Penyeach. The volume also features intricate and ornate illustrations by James' daughter, Lucia Joyce. The volume, which contains the Galway-themed poem, She Weeps Over Rahoon, was donated to the Hardiman Library by Joyce himself in 1935.

 The book was published by Obelisk Press, which was run by Jack Kahane, an admirer of Joyce’s work, and by Desmond Harmsworth. Editions of the book were signed by James Joyce and offered for sale at £12. Joyce sent copies to other authors and contacts in the publishing world and his letter notes that the book was deposited in the British Museum Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale.
Joyce personally sent a copy of Pomes Penyeach to the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway and a manuscript letter by Joyce sent to Prof. John Howley, University Librarian, was written in August 1935, accompanied the book.

In the letter Joyce indicates that his uncle-in-law, Michael Healy, had requested him to send a copy of the special edition of Pomes Penyeach to the Library. Joyce states that he was doing so not only because the illustrator was a “grand-daughter of Galway” and the bearer of one of the ancient tribal names but also as a token of appreciation of the support he had received over the years from Michael Healy himself.
Manuscript inscription byJames Joyce, limited edition of 'Pomes Penyeach'


The book is a beautiful reminder of the connection of Joyce to the City of Galway in his personal life through his relationship with Nora Barnacle and also in literary means, through She Weeps Over Rahoon and also as through numerous scenes and references in Joyce's masterful short story, the Dead.


Happy Bloomsday!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Remembering Jean Ritchie: Legendary folk singer and collector

The American folk singer Jean Ritchie died on the 1st of June at the age of 92. One of the major figures  in the American folk and Appalachian song movement she was famed for her pure voice, dulcimer playing, songwriting and influential books on the American song tradition.

She composed her own songs, many of which were recorded by such diverse artists as Johny Cash, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton.  In 1952 she toured Ireland with her husband the photographer George Pickow researching the ballads that she had grown up singing in her Kentucky home.

The remarkable photographs taken by George Pickow were acquired by the Library in 1996 and have since been digitised as one of the online archival collections. Last March the Library launched the inaugural Jean Ritchie memorial lecture in her honour. The acclaimed Appalachian author Silas House spoke about the close links between the Irish and Appalachian traditions that Jean Ritchie and George Pickow so responded to.



The Guardian newspaper obituary provides a full account of her life and accomplishments.  In addition, Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín wrote an appreciation of George Pickow, published in the Irish Times, 14 February, 2011

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Best of Luck to all in Exams!

To all students facing the upcoming exams, we wish you the very best of luck! A quick look back in the College calendars, published annually since Queen's College Galway was first opened in 1849, show all rules and regulations for students facing exams. This example, from 1898, shows, with the exception of 'No smartphones, tablets or devices allowed', very little has changed!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lunchtime Lecture - Arts of Travel: from Renaissance to Romanticism

Do join us this day week for what will be a very inspiring talk as part of our historical travel month. Professor Dan Carey,Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, will look at a small selection of the myriad examples of travel writing in Special Collections. New justifications for travel emerged in the Renaissance which stressed the benefit of political and social observation and personal refinement afforded by venturing abroad. In the same era, the value of travel for advancing natural history emerged. The talk will examine traditions of secular travel and how they were later transformed in the Enlightenment and into the era of Romanticism.
All are welcome to the G011 Seminar Room in the Hardiman Building on Wednesday April 15th at 1pm.

A collection of voyages round the world, performed by royal authority : containing a complete historical account of Captain Cook’s first, second, third and last voyages, undertaken for making new discoveries. (London : Printed for A. Millar, 1790)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Belonging' -Summer School on the Arts and Human Rights, NUI Galway, 9-11 July 2015

Galway International Summer School
on the Arts and Human Rights


“Belonging”


Exploring the intersection between the arts and human rights


The first Galway International Summer School on the Arts and Human Rights will take place from 9–11 July 2015 in National University of Ireland, Galway.  Co-directed by Prof. Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights and Dominique Bouchard, Curator at the Hunt Museum, it will bring together arts practitioners with human rights activists and scholars to explore their shared space.  Events will take the form of panel discussions, exhibitions and performances. 
 
The global theme for 2015 will be “Belonging”.  The Summer School will consist of keynote addresses, plenary discussions, and themed discussions on three parallel tracks – literature and human rights; the visual arts and human rights; and music and human rights.  The opening speaker will be the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights, Farida Shaheed.


For further information, navigate the tabs on the left hand side, or contact us through our contact page or atartsandhumanrights@gmail.com.  You can follow us on Twitter @AHRGalway for further updates.
The summer School is also featured on the Irish Centre for Human Rights Facebook page.