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The Irish Fair

Date: 1923
Dimensions: 54 x 50cm
Medium: Lithograph
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Presented by James A Healy, 1975, (Josephine C Healy Memorial Collection)

Description:

This lithograph, by the celebrated American artist George Bellows, belonged to the New York stock broker, James A. Healy. Bellows was part of Ash Can School; who recorded everyday life among New York’s working class in sympathetic and often gritty detail. The Irish Fair was one of a series of illustrations that he created for “The Wind Bloweth”, a novel by Donne Byrne set in nineteenth-century Ireland. Although this series included works such as “Irish Grandmother” and “Old Irish Woman” there is no evidence to suggest that Bellows ever visited Ireland. He did, however, know John B. Yeats who spent his final years in New York.

Bellows may have based this image on an Irish fair in New York. The ancestors of contemporary St. Patrick’s Day parades, such fairs were an opportunity for Irish emigrants to celebrate the culture that they had left behind. Inevitably, these events focused on romantic notions of Ireland and located the essence of Irishness in the west.

The presence of pumpkins in the foreground further confirms an American setting and it has also been suggested that the model for the central figure, holding a raised cane, was the Ash Can artist Robert Henri (1).

1. Lauris Mason & Joan Ludman, The Lithographs of George Bellows: A Catalogue Raisonne, New York, 1977, p.153.

Written by Riann Coulter

George Bellows (1882 – 1925)

Born 1882, Columbus, USA.
Died 1925, New York, USA.

Bellows became the premier realist painter of his generation and the most accomplished American lithographer of the first half of the twentieth century. He attended the Ohio State University, where he played varsity basketball and baseball and illustrated the yearbook. In 1904, he moved to New York City to study art.

Bellows was known for his bold and energetic brushwork. He was closely associated with members of a loosely defined group that critics—not very accurately— named the Ashcan school. These artists were committed to painting contemporary urban life, and Bellows painted subjects that ranged from the life and struggles of the poor to the sporting events and fashionable parks of the rich. His work was widely appreciated, and in 1913 he was simultaneously elected to the conservative National Academy of Design and chosen to exhibit in the revolutionary Armory Show of modern art.



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