The Fantastic in Irish Art

The Fantastic in Irish Art: Images of the Supernatural and the Uncanny 1860-1940
4th April – 12th August 2007

The role of the 'Fantastic' in Irish Art was the focus of this exhibition featuring over 50 works on paper, sculpture and stained glass produced by Irish artists between 1870-1930. The works were drawn from the National Gallery's Prints and Drawings collection and Yeats Archive, as well from public and private collections.

Contemporary European and Anglo-Irish literature was often a vital resource for artists, especially in the work of Harry Clarke, whose stained-glass panel piece, The Song of the Mad Prince (1917), was inspired by Walter de La Mare's poem. In this intricate and highly coloured glass work set in a walnut cabinet, the artist depicts the image of a young man standing between his parents at the graveside of his lover, creating a particular aura for its viewer, one that 'transcends the mundane realities of its domestic setting.'
Among the other artists represented in the show were William Orpen (Merchant Arch), George Russell (Spirit or Sidhe in a landscape) Wilhemina Geddes (Cinderella Undressing her Ugly Sister), Beatrice Glenavy (Prayer for a Little Child), Art O'Murnaghan (Men of the Coasts) and Dan O'Neill (Scarecrows at Newtownards).

Dr. Róisín Kennedy, curator of the show and author of the accompanying exhibition brochure, said that each artwork displays an awareness and understanding of the 'Fantastic'. This is concerned with awakening the viewer's imagination and challenging conventional ways of seeing by drawing their attention to the ambiguity of everyday experience.

Exhibition Brochure: The Fantastic in Irish Art
© 2007 National Gallery of Ireland
Editor Dr. Róisín Kennedy