Turf Gatherer by Sean Keating (1889-1977)

Date: N.D.
Dimensions: 74 × 62cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Presented by James A Healy, 1975 (Josephine C Healy Memorial Collection)


As Professor of Painting at the Metropolitan School of Art from 1937–1954, and President of the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1949–1962, Seán Keating exerted a strong hold over the Irish art establishment. His traditional views on painting and subject matter were partly fuelled by his conviction that Irish art should record both the culture and the traditions of the west, and the national struggle for independence.

In works such as Turf-Gatherer, Keating celebrated a way of life that was unique to the west of Ireland and depicted those who maintained it as noble figures deeply connected to the local landscape. Despite his respect for tradition, Keating was not opposed to progress. During the 1920s he was commissioned by the Electricity Supply Board to record the construction of the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station on the River Shannon and in the 1940s. He also documented a similar project on the Liffey. In the resulting paintings, engineers and work men are depicted with the same respect and sense of purpose as this weather-worn turf-gatherer.

A pastel preparatory drawing for this work was acquired by the Belfast artist, Theo Gracey in 1939, which may suggest that the finished work dates to this period.

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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