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Visualising a changing city

Delving into a hitherto unexplored aspect of Irish art history, Painting Dublin, 1886–1949 examines the depiction of Dublin by artists from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Artists’ representations of the city have long been markers of civic pride and identity, yet in Ireland, such artworks have been overlooked in favour of the rural and pastoral, falling outside of the dominant disciplinary narratives of nationalism or modernism. Framed by the shift from city of empire to capital of an independent republic, this book chiefly examines artworks by of Walter Frederick Osborne (1857–1903), Rose Mary Barton (1856–1929), Jack Butler Yeats (1871–1957), Harry Aaron Kernoff (1900–74), Estella Frances Solomons (1882–1968), and Flora Hippisley Mitchell (1890–1973), encompassing a variety of urban views and artistic themes. While Dublin is renowned for its representation in literature, this book will demonstrate how the city was also the subject of a range of visual depictions, including those in painting and print. Focusing on the images created by these artists as they navigated the city’s streets, this book offers a vivid visualisation of Dublin and its inhabitants, challenging a reengagement with Ireland’s art history through the prism of the city and urban life.

Kathryn Milligan

Chapter 3 will show how the depiction of Dublin city and urban life was a consistent theme the work of Jack Butler Yeats (1871–1957) with paintings extending over a wide range of urban subjects and themes, including newspaper boys, flower sellers and dock workers, busy bridges, and the docks. Through a focus on Yeats’s engagement with urban culture generally, and with Dublin in particular, this chapter will readdress this imbalance, demonstrating how his city paintings engage with themes of poverty, sexuality, and popular culture in the early to mid-twentieth century; for example, in relation to jazz and morality. The artist’s routine of walking the city and observing daily life will be shown through his collection of sketchbooks and scrapbooks.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
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Kathryn Milligan
in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
Kathryn Milligan

This chapter offers an exploration of the work of Harry Aaron Kernoff (1900–74), a migrant artist working in Dublin from the early 1920s onwards. Although working in the same period as Yeats, Kernoff’s artistic technique and choice of subject matter contrasts with his older peer, offering a different view of everyday life in twentieth-century Dublin. The early sections of this chapter will explore Kernoff’s work in this ‘jazz age’, including his earliest depictions of everyday life in Dublin, and his involvement with groups such as the Radical Club and Toto Cogley’s Cabaret. From this, the chapter will then consider Kernoff’s leftist politics, his focus on the city’s labourers and dockers, and finally, his later pastoral works.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
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From Empire to Republic, 1886–1949
Kathryn Milligan

This chapter establishes the historical, cultural, and theoretical frameworks that have shaped Painting Dublin. In addition to an overview of the key chapters, it introduces the place of the city in Irish literature, drama, and poetry, and how these relate to visual art. The latter half of this chapter outlines the key historical, political, and social events that shaped the city in the years 1886–1949, as well as introducing the institutions which supported artistic life in the city as pertaining to artistic education, studio life, and artistic societies, as well as opportunities for exhibiting, viewing, and selling art

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
Kathryn Milligan

Returning to the theme of ‘old Dublin’, this chapter will examine the contributions of Estella Solomons (1882–1968) and Flora H. Mitchell (1890–1973) to publications on Dublin in the 1920s and 1960s, respectively. The first section of the chapter focuses on Solomons’ training, early revolutionary activity, and her interest in the etching revival, before exploring the eight etchings included in The Glamour of Dublin (1928) in more detail. The second section of the chapter examines Flora Mitchell’s 1966 publication, Vanishing Dublin, which gathered fifty of the artist’s watercolours of streets, buildings, and other landmarks, considering them in relation to contemporary demolition and redevelopment projects. Mitchell’s representation of the disappearing city encapsulates the issues present in the longer history of painting Dublin.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
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Kathryn Milligan

This short conclusion summarises the key arguments and findings of Painting Dublin and considers how they relate to visual representations of the city in the present day. It highlights points of connection and departure between artists’ depictions of Dublin and urban painting in other countries; parallels with literature; and places the activity of walking and navigating the city at the centre of this art history.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
Kathryn Milligan

This chapter focuses on the work of Walter Frederick Osborne (1857–1903). Although a prolific painter, Osborne’s depictions of Dublin have never been fully explored either in relation to urban history or the history of painting the city. After introducing Osborne’s early life and training, the chapter will consider the artist’s depictions of urban poverty, his portrayal of the environs of Patrick Street and St Patrick’s Cathedral, and his later paintings of St Stephen’s Green, with reference to other artistic and literary sources. A close analysis of a key painting, The Dublin Streets: A Vendor of Books, will consider Osborne’s practice of exhibiting works in multiple venues in Britain in relation to networks, circulation, and artistic mobility.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949
Kathryn Milligan

Chapter 2 focuses on the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century city, centring on the watercolours and illustrations of Rose Mary Barton (1856–1929). Framed by the themes of gaslight, fog, and the picturesque, Barton’s depiction of Dublin will be explored through her involvement in the city’s vice regal circles, her illustrations for a book on the city’s history published in 1898, and a comparative look at her representations of London. Furthermore, this chapter will consider the development of the theme of ‘old Dublin’ in fine art and popular discourse, and the relationship between Barton’s watercolours and the narrative of Dublin at the end of empire. This theme will be revisited and further explored in the final chapter of this volume.

in Painting Dublin, 1886–1949