A couple of weeks ago I posted about depictions of rain and bad weather in Irish art. This week however, things are looking up, as April sunshine is streaming through my window. It might be late, but at least it’s here. Walking around Dublin today, I noticed that the leaves have finally started to come out; people have ditched their heavy winter coats (although many scarves remain!) and… exams have started!
Walking through St Stephen’s Green, a couple of paintings came to mind. It is like a magnet for people when the some comes out, I even spotted someone with their sketch book out. Harry Kernoff was also fond of this spot, and completed several different depictions of the city centre park, such as the work below, Summer’s Day, St Stephen’s Green.
Perhaps one of the best known depictions of Stephen’s Green however, is Walter Osborne’s In A Dublin Park: Light and Shade, a late nineteenth century canvas showing a group of people resting on a bench in the same park. While Kernoff and Osborne’s paintings are stylistically diverse, the each show the benefit of the Green as an oasis of nature in the middle of the city. While Kernoff’s figures hold newspapers, and wear bowler hats, Osborne’s figures are more redolent of the city’s working poor at the turn of the century.
To finish this St Stephen’s Green trio, the last painting I want to highlight here is Jack B. Yeats Stephen’s Green Closing Time, March 1950. While not a painting of sunshine per se, this evocative painting shows what happens a little after that, when the sun fades, evening comes, and it’s time to go home. These three paintings not only share their location, but also but the Stephen’s Green bench centre stage. The blue tones of Yeats’ painting seem to highlight the isolation of the two figures, and its not hard to draw a comparison with the tired mother figure in Osborne’s canvas.
My research is showing that these depictions of green and natural idylls were among the most popular Dublin scenes depicted by artist’s in the late nineteenth and through the twentieth century. While city life offers many benefits, it would seem that when the sun appears, everyone wants to get back to nature!