Self Portrait by Sean Keating (1889-1977)

Date: N.D.
Dimensions: 49 × 59.25cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Presented by James A Healy, 1975 (Josephine C Healy Memorial Collection)


Born in Limerick, Seán Keating attended art classes in the Limerick Technical School before winning a scholarship to the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. At the Metropolitan School Keating was taught by William Orpen and soon became one of his favourite pupils. Orpen later appointed Keating as his assistant in London and also used him as a model in several of his Irish themed paintings including The Holy Well, 1916 and Man of the West, 1915. In both paintings Keating is depicted as the quintessential Irishman deeply rooted in the landscape and traditions of the west of Ireland.

Like Orpen, Keating created numerous self-portraits during his long career and often used himself and his friends as models. He also made a number of images where he depicted himself as a man of the west. This element of masquerade, which can be interpreted as Keating’s way of declaring his allegiance to a nationalist idea of Ireland, is particularly evident in his well known painting, Men of the West, 1915. Drawing on the iconography of both the Irish and American west, Keating depicts himself as a rebel, ready to defend the Irish flag and the traditional culture of the west of Ireland.

Written by Riann Coulter


About the Artist

Sean Keating PRHA (1889 -1977)

Born 1889, Limerick, Ireland. Died 1977, Dublin, Ireland. Limerick native, Sean Keating is one of Irelands best known twentieth century artists. Keating was a traditionalist whose style was marked with a directness and precision. His fine draughtsmanship can be seen in his many paintings of Irish people. Keating studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, under the distinguished artist and teacher Sir William Orpen. Upon graduation, he spent four years living in the Aran Islands, where, he said, he found the Ireland he could paint. Keating first exhibited at the R.H.A. in 1914 and then showed there every year for sixty-one years. He spent twenty years as professor of painting at the National College of Art in Dublin, where he taught many up and coming artists such as Maurice McGonigal and Charles Lamb.

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