National Gallery releases early bird tickets for Roderic O’Conor exhibition

Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940), Le Cap Canaille, Cassis, 1913. Private Collection. Photographer: Roy Hewson
Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940), Le Cap Canaille, Cassis, 1913. Private Collection. Photographer: Roy HewsonCredit

Limited early bird tickets costing €10 are now on sale for the National Gallery of Ireland’s summer 2018 exhibition Roderic O’Conor and the Moderns. Between Paris and Pont-Aven.

This is the first major retrospective in 30 years to showcase Irish artist Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940), who became a key member of the French avant-garde. The exhibition opens 18 July and continues until 28 October 2018. Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland and Children Under 16 go FREE. 

Roscommon-born O’Conor spent much of his working life in France. The exhibition of over 60 major works features colourful French scenes and striking etchings created during his most creative years in Pont-Aven at the heart of the late 19th-century avant garde. There is also the rare opportunity to see three of Van Gogh’s masterpieces, and two works by Gauguin, alongside other key artists from the Pont-Aven school. 

The exhibition promises a glorious array of summer landscapes, rustic still lifes, and portraits of local Breton characters, with over 60 major works. Highlights are Roderic O’Conor’s Field of Corn, Pont-Aven, 1892, on loan from the Ulster Museum; Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cornflowers, 1890, from the Fondation Beyeler, Basel; and for the first time in Ireland, Paul Gauguin’s Bowl of Fruit and Tankard before a Window, c.1890, from The National Gallery, London. 

O’Conor, an experimental and accomplished artist, was a champion of the modern, passing on his innovations to the many artists with whom he collaborated. The exhibition features 11 works by Swiss painter Cuno Amiet (later to join German Expressionist group, Die Brücke) who was so impressed by O’Conor’s work that he took inspiration for his own paintings. O’Conor was one of the first to recognise Vincent van Gogh’s talent, and a personal friend of Paul Gauguin. 

Roderic O'Conor had a distinctly personal style with a bold treatment of line and colour. Painting in expressive parallel lines (or stripes) from 1892, he adapted a feature of Van Gogh’s late landscapes. The exhibition Roderic O’Conor and the Moderns. Between Paris and Pont-Aven presents an invaluable opportunity to examine the evolution of O’Conor’s style, side-by-side with his contemporaries including Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Armand Seguin, Émile Bernard, Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier, and particularly Cuno Amiet. 

The exhibition is curated by Jonathan Benington, author of Roderic O'Conor, a biography with a catalogue of his work (1992), and Brendan Rooney, Head Curator, National Gallery of Ireland.  A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. 

About Roderic O’Conor:
Roderic O’Conor was born in Co. Roscommon, but moved to France, working between Paris and rural art colonies such as Grez and Pont-Aven. His cutting edge Post-Impressionist style in the early 1890s was unmatched by any of his English-speaking contemporaries. The exhibition curators have selected some of his very best works from the 1890s - many not previously seen in public – drawn from public and private collections including Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena. The exhibition celebrates O'Conor as an artist of international standing, operating on a European stage. The strength of his artistic connections is demonstrated for the first time by placing his work in context, alongside that of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier, and Armand Seguin. 

Van Gogh and O’Conor:
O’Conor was among those who appreciated Vincent van Gogh’s talent long before the Dutch artist gained mainstream recognition. New research by exhibition co-curator Jonathan Benington reveals O’Conor’s privileged early access to Van Gogh’s oeuvre at the Parisian flat of his brother Theo in 1890. Vincent died in July of that year, and two months later, O’Conor attended a memorial exhibition, seeing Van Gogh’s work in quantity for the first time. Responding to Van Gogh’s exaggerated colours and expressive brushwork, he adapted elements of his style to suit his own vision, painting alternating stripes of pure colour, intended to mix optically, like the dots of the pointillists. Over the next two years O’Conor experimented with ‘the stripe’ and adopted it across all media, including ink drawings and etchings.

Gauguin and O'Conor:
Included in the exhibition is Pierre Girieud's painting Homage to Gauguin, 1906, which features O’Conor as one of Gauguin’s ten most dedicated followers. During Gauguin’s last season in Brittany, he and O’Conor became friends. In May 1894, the pair were involved in a brawl with sailors in Concarneau, in which Gauguin broke his ankle. When Gauguin recovered, O’Conor allowed him to use a studio at the manor of Lezaven, and Gauguin based part of a picture on one of O’Conor’s drawings. Gauguin presented O’Conor with affectionately inscribed prints, and invited him to travel with him to the South Seas, though O’Conor declined. O’Conor later experimented with using paint more fluidly, deploying warm colours reminiscent of Gauguin’s Tahitian landscapes. 

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