When Time Began to Rant and Rage

Published in Issue 3 (Autumn 1998), News, News, Volume 6

Some of the finest Irish paintings from the turn of the century to the present day will be featured in a ground-breaking exhibition being premiered at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, 16 October 1998-10 January 1999. More than seventy works will be showcased in When Time Began to Rant and Rage: Twentieth-Century Figurative Painting from Ireland, which takes its title from William Butler Yeats, organised by the University of California Art Museum, Berkeley, where it will be shown next year.
Artists from both North and South are featured in this exhibition, the first of its kind. Julian Treuherz, keeper of the Walker Art Gallery, says she is ‘delighted to be launching this very important exhibition which brings together some the best Irish figurative painting over the past century. It has an enormous span, ranging from the shimmering Tea in the Garden (1902) by Irish Impressionist Walter Frederick Osborne right through changing tastes and techniques to James Hanley’s shockingly frank Weight of His Story (1997).
According to James Steward, Berkeley Art Museum’s curator, who chose the paintings, ‘the exhibition explores the full range of figurative works, paying particular attention to two vital issues. The first is the development of a distinctively Irish identity in the visual arts and its relationship to the development of Irish nationalism. The second is the involvement of Irish artists in international art movements.’
The exhibition puts Irish figurative painting in the international context. Artists include:

• Walter Osborne (1859-1903): ‘Irish Impressionist’ famous for atmospheric scenes of Dublin life and sparkling, sunlit landscapes.

• Sir John Lavery (1856-1941): Fashionable Belfast-born painter of high-society portraits, dazzling opulent interiors and impressionistic landscapes.

• Sir William Orpen (1878-1931): Prodigiously talented, he studied in Dublin and at the Slade School, London, before becoming hugely successful. His early work, dark and exquisite, was influenced by Whistler. Later his style became broader, with greater richness and brilliance of colour for Irish landscapes, portraits and an arresting series of self-portraits.

• Sean Keating (1889-1977): Pupil and later assistant of Orpen, he adopted the west of Ireland as his subject matter, showing traditional rural life with sympathy and understanding.

• Paul Henry (1876-1958): Born in Belfast and studied in France. Well known for landscapes and later for railway posters, showing west of Ireland landscapes, depicted with a feeling of atmosphere and light.

• Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957): Greatest Irish painter of the twentieth century, brother of the poet W.B. Yeats. He evolved a free style, using thick paint and expressionistic brushwork for scenes of the circus, theatre and racecourse as well as Dublin and Irish life. His work was deeply affected by the Irish struggle for independence.

• Louis le Brocquy (b. 1916): Born in Dublin, he has created stylised scenes of Irish life and portraits of well-known Irish writers such as Yeats, Joyce and Beckett.
Much of the later work in the exhibition reflects the recent turbulent history of Ireland. Artists include: David Crone (b. 1937), Michael Kane (b. 1935), Michael Cullen (b. 1946), Brian Maguire (b. 1951) and Rita Duffy (b. 1959).
When Time Began to Rant and Rage will be at Berkeley 10 February 1999-1 May 1999. It will then travel to the Grey Art Gallery and Study Centre, New York, and later London’s Barbican Art Gallery.
Enquiries: Stephen Guy, Press Officer, (0151) 4784614.

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