#read… ‘Irish art histories’, Journal of Art Historiography

A series of papers on Irish art history are included in the most recent edition of the Journal of Art Historiography. A bi-annual, online journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles and papers through it’s WordPress site, the Journal of Art Historiography aims to ‘support and promote the history and practice of art historical writing’ (Mission Statement, Journal of Art Historiography), and as such, is an important online platform for emerging research in the discipline. 

Several of the papers included in the ‘Irish art histories’ section expand on papers delivered at the ‘Writing Irish Art History’ session at the Association of Art Historians Annual Conference held in Warwick in 2010, and at an earlier event at TRIARC – Irish Art Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin, in 2009. Introduced by Niamh NicGhabhann (University of Limerick), this collection covers a wide range of topics and subjects relating to Irish art history, with papers by both emerging and established scholars in the field. With new, and nuanced, readings of the subject, these papers make an excellent contribution to the growing discipline of Irish art history. 

All of the papers can be read here, http://arthistoriography.wordpress.com/


#fridayfocus…’Modern Dancing’ in Dublin, 1927

Just a short post this week, with a gem found in the course of this week’s research. At the moment, I am looking at different depictions of Dublin during the 1920s by visual artists such as Jack B. Yeats. As part of this, I am also looking at the urban experience in Dublin during this period, and have been especially interested in what this might have involved after the Civil War. 

View from top of Nelson’s Pillar, Sackville Street, c.1921. (Image: NLI on The Commons)

So, I’ve be trawling through the archive of the Irish Times which continues to through up some really interesting information. One recurring theme has been the criticism levelled at international modern culture – the cinema, jazz, new types of dancing, and women’s fashion. Often the subject of Lenten pastorals, church figures lamented the fact that Ireland could ‘no longer pride herself on “the reserve and scrupulous modesty of her women and girls”‘ (‘Modern Dancing: Condemnation in Lenten Pastorals’, Irish Times, 8 March 1924 – quote from Cardinal Logue) while the President of the Gaelic League, Cormac Breathnach, stated that it was the young men of Ireland who were ‘blameable for the neglect of Irish dances, because they were satisfied with whirling around in “jazz” and other foreign dancing.’ (‘Jazz Condemned by Gaelic League’, Irish Times, 15 September 1928). 

These admonishments, however, did not seem to quell the import of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ in to Dublin. Fashion pages from the paper echo the leading styles of the period; cloche hats, flapper-style dresses, long beads, and furs all make an appearance. Male fashions too, are noted, with an article dedicated to ‘Dublin’s Beau Brummels’, who wear their trousers ‘short, so that the bright rainbow socks may not be concealed’ (‘Dublin’s Beau Brummels’, Irish Times, 28 December 1921). 

Sam Hood, ‘Ingenues arrive, Central Station, Sydney, 1928-1929’ (Image: State Library of New South Wales, Flickr Commons)

Modern dancing also continued, and the newspaper reveals the myriad shows, bands and cabaret acts who performed in the city. Among them, in October 1927, was a dance at the Metropole Ballroom organised by Blackrock College Rugby Club. The entertainments included cabaret by ‘Miss Monti Ryan, an Irish girl … a clever dancer’, ‘Miss Dickie Dixon and Mr Harry Robbins.’ (‘Last Night’s Dance, Irish Times, 11 October 1927). Music was provided by ‘Percival Mackay and his thirteen instrumentalists’. As it turns out Monti Ryan and Mackey were married, and in 1933, British Pathe recorded this video of his band with a tap-dance by Monti Ryan (her dance starts at about 2:05). 

What this research begins to show, I think, is the different layers of life that existed in the city during the 1920s. Of course, not everyone living in Dublin in 1927 would have had the opportunity to go to the Metropole, to dress in the latest fashions or listen to jazz. However, this scene was undoubtedly part of the city’s social life and culture, and had clearly had a strong, and fun-loving, following.