Dimensions: 76.5 × 51cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: On loan from the Haverty Trust
Maurice MacGonigal’s oeuvre included set designs for the Abbey Theatre, illustrations for Cuala Press and a mural for the Irish Pavilion at the New York World Fair. Despite this diversity, the work for which he is best remembered are his images of the landscape and people of the west of Ireland, particularly Connemara, Donegal and the islands of Achill and Aran. Less well known are his land and seascapes inspired by North County Dublin where he painted around Loughshinny, Rush, Skerries and Portrane.
The setting for this painting is the seashore at Portrane, which was traditionally known as Port Rachrainn. The unusual composition focuses on the abstracted patterns made by the lichen covered rocks in the foreground rather than Portrane Martello Tower which can be seen in the distance. Built during the nineteenth-century, at sites throughout the British Empire, Martello towers are small forts originally designed to defend the coasts of England and Ireland from invasion by Napoleonic forces. Around fifty Martello towers were built in Ireland, including a number on Dublin Bay all in sight of one another for communication purposes. The few surviving towers include this one at Portrane and the tower at Sandycove in which James Joyce once lived.
Written by Riann Coulter