Historic Freedom Struggle Paintings on Display at Crawford Art Gallery

A fascinating new art exhibition titled ‘As They Must Have Been’ opened to the public on Saturday at Cork’s Crawford Gallery.

That exhibition celebrates the centenary of Sean Keating’s most famous painting ‘Men of the South’, as well as its companion painting, ‘An Ira Column 1921’ on loan from Oras en Uchtrain. These pieces are together for the first time in 98 years and are only two of the fascinating collection of artwork that includes a portrait of Sean Moylan that was described as ‘breathing’ by those who viewed the collection.

‘Men of the South’ was purchased by the Gibson Bayquest Fund in 1924 and has been on display at the Crawford Art Gallery ever since. ‘An Ira Column 1921’ remained unsold until 1944 when President Douglas Hyde decided to assemble a collection of art documenting the centuries-long struggle to assert Ireland’s nationality, and he purchased the iconic painting .

The origin of the paintings is as fascinating as their execution. A series of events began with the arrest of Sean Moylan on May 16, 1921, his detention in the military prison in Cork City, a meeting with Solicitor Barry O’Sullivan, and the hiring of Albert Wood QC to defend him. sets on the train. Since his arrest, Moylan was now a newly elected TD.

Wood sets about drafting a writ of habeas corpus in Moylan JR v. Major General EP Strickland. A debate on the matter went to the House of Commons, supported by Captain Wedgwood Benn, and centered on the jurisdiction of the Military Court Martial over the Civil Court.

Meanwhile, back in Cork, Moylan is brought before a court martial. Wearing only old clothes when arrested, the O’Flynn family of Newmarket aided him by supplying him with clothes and overcoats for this momentous date with a fortune.

Moylan refused to recognize the court. He was acquitted of the first charge of waging war on the Crown and ordered a 15-year sentence. This generous sentence was in recognition of his gallantry towards the wounded British officers during the war.

Moylan began his sentence on June 13, 1921, on Spike Island. When a truce was observed on 11 July to facilitate the negotiation of a treaty between the IRA and the British government, he was surprised. De Valera refused any talks until at least all of the elected TDs were released to participate in the del. Sean

Moylan was released from Spike Island on August 8, 1921.

The second Dell was called on 16 August and Moylan was in attendance. That night they are invited to dinner and Albert Wood bumps into QC. They agreed to meet again for a lengthy conversation with Wood that suggested the National Gallery, an institution unfamiliar to Moylan, but a visit he thoroughly enjoyed. Wood then asked Moylan if he would allow artist Sean Keating to paint his portrait in the clothes he was wearing on the dock. Once Moylan agreed, it wouldn’t interfere with his Dáil business.

Keating was thrilled to be appointed to the project, as it was acceptable to him both economically and politically.

Albert Wood attended the studio for most of Moylan’s presence, and then made another request. He wanted Moylan to bring his Flying Column to Dublin so that they could be recorded on canvas for posterity.

His arrival at the School of Art in Dublin led to him arriving in uniform and armed. They told the frightened porter that they were looking for Keating. “Send them up” said Keating calmly.

But Keating and his models were evicted from the School of Art, as Keating said it was a very British institution. They shifted to Haveli House but the lighting there made it difficult to continue. Keating eventually went back to art school and asked volunteers to participate one by one, hiding their guns at all times. The resulting painting was ‘An Ira Column 1921’.

The people featured in the N IRA column 1921 are (front row) Michael D. O’Sullivan, Knockluggin, Johnny Jones, Glencollins, Roger Keeley, Cullen, Dan Brown, Ballinatona; (back row) Jim Riordan, Kischem, Denny Mullen, Ballybohallagh, Jim Cashman, Kischem and Sean Moylan.

When the painting was complete, Keating thought that perhaps it was too early to move all over, that perhaps he didn’t do it justice, so he started again. The second painting is called ‘Men of the South’. This time he left out Moylan and O’Sullivan. Moylan, at his own request, was not involved in the painting. He did not believe that the British were honest and that the war could resume at any time. He didn’t want images of himself to be available!

It was indeed important that the Kischem Brass Band bearing the Thomas Ash banner were present at the Crawford Gallery to witness the re-combination of the two paintings. The original brass band, led by leader Tim Keeley, participated in every anti-recruitment rally, election rally and various other events organized by local volunteers. His proudest moment was to welcome Countess Markiewicz to Kischem in May 1919.

The current band gave a wonderfully exhilarating performance of well-known songs outside the Crawford Gallery before heading to the exhibition area. On his way, he passed a magnificent bronze statue of the said countess.

The exhibition’s curator, Dr. Michael Waldron, welcomed the descendants of the men in pictures to the event. Newmarket historian Sheila O’Sullivan gave a brief description of the sequence of paintings, and then identified the volunteers represented by Keating and as described by Sean Moylan in his Statement to the Military Archives.

For the family of Mike Denny O’Sullivan, it was a proud and emotional day as it was the first time his uncle’s painting was on exhibition in Cork. This was particularly poignant as Mike Denny left Ireland after the Civil War and never returned. As a special tribute to Mike and his teammates, Newmarket lady and Inchintoten genius violinist Katherine Walsh performed ‘Ann Chullian’.

“We are fortunate that there is a lot of information available about Moylan, Keating and the circumstances of the printing. A very good source of contemporary information is Dan Brown’s diary. Dan is featured in both the paintings and the surroundings of his visit to Dublin. Keeps a diary of all the days and events Keating attended, who was present, and on what days, as well as information on participating in treaty debates” said Sheila O’Sullivan.

The diary is in the possession of Dan’s grandson Jim Brown, and he gave a comprehensive account of its contents relevant to the pictures on Saturday’s show.

The other work of art on display is a Keating sketch in preparation for his painting ‘Republican Court’, on loan from the Hunt Museum in Limerick. A beautiful portrait of Terrence McSweeney and McSweeney’s funeral by artist John Lavery is painted along with many other wonderful works of art. The exhibition will run till 25 September.