I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Desperately Seeking Focus

Desperately Seeking Focus

Catherine Marshall
The Poetry of Vision: The Rosc Art Exhibitions 1967-1988, by Peter Shortt, Irish Academic Press, 407 pp, €35, ISBN: 978-1911024293 Art History after Françoise Henry: 50 years at UCD 1965-2015, eds Carla Briggs, Nicky Figgis, Lynda Mulvin and Paula Murphy, Gandon Editions, 208 pp, ISBN: 978-1910140123 Creating History: Stories of Ireland in Art, by Brendan Rooney, Irish Academic Press, 312 pp, €24.99, ISBN: 978-1911024286 Viewed retrospectively, the 1960s marked a dizzying moment in the visual arts in Ireland. The first of the six Rosc exhibitions took place in the Royal Dublin Society’s industrial hall in 1967, providing an important catalyst for Irish modernism, but UCD had kicked off with the launch of the country’s first History of Art department in 1965, to be followed a year later by the appointment of Anne Crookshank to lead a similar department at Trinity College. These events unfolded against the backdrop of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising, which was marked in the visual arts by the National Gallery of Ireland’s (NGI) exhibition Cuimhneachán 1916. Fifty years on we face a similar confluence of related events: 2016 saw the death of one of the stalwarts of that time, Anne Crookshank, and the publications of a history of the Rosc exhibitions; an anthology of essays, Art History after Francoise Henry, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the UCD department; and Creating History, to accompany an exhibition of the same name, the NGI’s contribution to the centenary of the Rising. This essay will assess the strengths of those publications but aims also to address issues of thematic focus, professionalism and quality in the presentation of the visual arts in this country and in the discourse surrounding it. Has our lacklustre relationship with the visual arts in the early years of the century been impacted by half a century of academic research and education? Dr Peter Shortt is a lawyer turned art historian. He has set the bar high for ambitious historians with his systematic and thorough appraisal of the Rosc exhibitions in The Poetry of Vision: The Rosc Art Exhibitions 1967-1988. The book outlines the impact of Rosc on art education, artists and audiences that ultimately paved the way for the foundation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1991. Furthermore, it proves the value of art history for contemporary practice. By spelling out the logistical difficulties overcome by small, self-appointed bands of art-lovers to…



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