The selling off of Ireland’s cultural heritage makes for decent business. Recently the treasures of what the auctioneer described as ‘Ireland’s greatest literary and artistic family’ netted just shy of £2 million. Where, if indeed anywhere, does the public interest come into this?
A handsome new publication provides a survey of that period of ferment and rejuvenation that, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ‘fashioned a new civic culture outside the scope of institutional religion, the colonial state and conventional politics’.
A novel set in Ireland and in various of the theatres of the Second World war is based on the historical story of an Irish family of the minor gentry, who, like well over 100,000 other Irish citizens, took part in this conflict, in which nine thousand of them are estimated to have died.
An exhibition that confuses painting with reportage does not make for great art. History painting is not and was never meant to be reportage. Rather its aims were to instil feelings of reverence for the heroes of the past and pride in the stories that shape a nation’s identity.
A new collection of Cork songs assembled by Jimmy Crowley achieves a model standard in the genre – setting the work in its place, establishing the relevant voices and according the lyrics their historical period and purpose, adding value for singer, listener – and even reader – alike.
The Rosc art exhibitions, which ran in Dublin for twenty years in the second half of the last century, opened up Ireland to the experience of modern and Modernist art. But did the impulse for them come from the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and its ultimate paymaster, the CIA?
The exemplary career of Irish broadcaster Andy O’Mahony illustrates the role that can be played by the critic in the public sphere. Standing beside the novelist and the poet, he or she illuminates experience through texts, as the others do through plot and character or rhythm and metaphor.
An exhibition at Trinity College Dublin shows the wonderful variety and vigour of writing about the visual arts in Ireland in the 1890s and the early years of the last century, a phenomenon which the prestige of more purely literary work tends to make us forget.