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IRISH ARTISTS & ILLUSTRATION 1830-1930

Title: ‘The State of Ireland: The Affray at Belmullet’

Title of artwork:
‘The State of Ireland: The Affray at Belmullet’
Artist:
O'Kelly, Aloysius
Materials:
Paper (fiber material), Ink
Techniques:
Wood engraving
Author:
Anon.
Title of Publication:
Illustrated London News (Vol. LXXIX)
Publisher:
George C. Leighton
Publication place:
London
Publication date:
1881
Curator Comment:
Like a number of Irish artists in their early careers, Aloysius O’Kelly turned to illustration to provide an income and to increase his profile as an artist. Among the journals he provided drawings for were the Illustrated London News (ILN) and Pictorial World. O’Kelly’s illustrations for ILN, such as this example, are interesting in that they address the political and social unrest experienced in Ireland during the Land War of the early 1880s, which resulted in the mobilisation of peasant classes to assert their rights as tenants in the West of Ireland. O’Kelly’s work is noted for its authenticity in its observations of Irish life and its political sensibilities when viewed in the context of his English publishers.
Note on artwork:
This image ‘The State of Ireland: The Affray at Belmullet’ was published in the ILN, 12th November 1881. The scene was sketched by O’Kelly and worked up to a full drawing for the engraver by INL special illustrator W H Overend (1851-98), which he signed, lower left. O’Kelly seeks to recreate the highly dramatic and violent scene that he witnessed. As noted by O’Kelly scholar, Niamh O’Sullivan, a sense of each side’s collective identity is striking. The defensive, structured order of the police is in marked contrast to the frenzied, reckless abandon of the attacking labourers. Convincingly, as he observed the scene from life, O’Kelly has brought the viewer right into the fracas, bringing the realities of Irish rural life into mainland British homes at that time.
References:
DIB online, N. O'Sullivan, Aloysius O'Kelly: art, nation, empire (Dublin 2010).


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