#fridayfocus…Harry Kernoff’s sketches and drawings

This post is more of a ‘drawing-attention-to’ than a full post. As you will have noticed there has been no #fridayfocus in the past few weeks – I’ve been busy getting a chapter finished and then working on revisions, so I can get it wrapped up before starting on my AAH paper! So busy busy, but one thing that I noticed during some down time was that the lovely people in the National Gallery of Ireland have put a number of Harry Kernoff’s sketches and life drawings on to their website.

After the artist’s death in 1974, his sister was left with the task of sorting out the contents of his studio in the attic of their home at 13 Stamer Street. While not quite as cluttered as say, the Francis Bacon studio at the Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, it was filled with all sorts of things; sketches, paintings,  newspaper clippings… The collection was then divided between the NGI and the National Library of Ireland. The NLI have manuscript material, including the artist’s own newspaper clippings, and the original blocks for his woodcuts. In addition, the NGI have sketches, sketchbooks (including one particularly interesting one of material from his trip to Russia) and the artist’s photographs of his works.

For the researcher, these two archives are an invaluable resource. Often the artist did not date his work, but many of the sketches are meticulously detailed with the date, time, weather and location usually noted. Kernoff often completed many different versions of the one composition in a variety of media, and it’s easy to see how these sketches formed part of his process.

From time to time, Kernoff has been criticised for the lack of detail and anatomical preciseness in his representation of the human body, however the collection of sketches on the NGI website show that he was an accomplished draughtsman and had a strong interest in life drawing. Many of these works date to his student years in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where life drawing was an essential element of the teaching and training. At the opposite end of the spectrum perhaps, the collection also contains his many colourful mask watercolours and wonderful expressionist stage sets. The pencil portrait drawings show a sensitivity that is often missing from his pastel or oil portraits (am I alone in thinking this one looks a little like Edith from Downton?!) , and there are also number of self-portraits included.

So, if you have a spare few minutes, I would strongly encourage you to have a browse through this collection and enjoy seeing a different side to a familiar artist.

Resolutions: one month on.

Back at the end of December I wrote about some academic New Year’s resolutions and goals. Sitting by the fire on this bright and cold early February afternoon, I re-read the post and was actually quite pleased with the progress I have made over the past month.

One of main resolutions was to get writing, and tomorrow I’m handing in a draft chapter to my supervisor. I set myself a loose target of 2000 words per week, and some weeks I wrote more – some weeks less! I discovered quite a lot about how I like to write, and the processes which make it enjoyable for me. Looking forward, I already feel more settled and confident about keeping up a regular writing routine. Watching those pages stack up is most encouraging!

As well as a academic writing, I’ve also been working on putting together a blog post every week. This is fast becoming something I look forward to each week, and it’s a lovely extension to the ‘day job’.

Another of my resolutions was to get more exercise – namely running. The weather, especially the dark mornings, has gone against me here, but I have found a good replacement. After 2 years of walking past it, I have started using the college gym and swimming pool, and have made it part of my daily routine. I really look forward a morning swim, it gets me away from my desk and helps blow the cobwebs away!

So, so far so good really – here’s to another month of productivity, and hopefully, so brighter mornings and longer afternoons.


#fridayfocus… Goodbye to the Creation Arcade (1959-2013)

Yesterday, demolition was the fate of Dublin’s first, and once premier shopping arcade, as seen in this post from Broadsheet. Officially opened on the 3 December 1959 by the then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor P.A Brady, T.D. A full report of it’s building, opening and facilities was given in the eponymous magazine, Creation, The Magazine of Fashion and Decor, surely one of the most fascinating remnants of middle-class Ireland during the 1950s and 1960s.

ImageAs this article, published shortly before the arcade opened, it was to be the new doyen of shopping in Dublin, catering for the needs of the modern Irish women, completed with a restaurant, information bureau and telephone kiosks, ‘allowing shoppers to spend the entire day under one rood, in the heart of the city’s fashion centre.’ Furthermore, the building itself was the height of modernity, with the ‘latest’ in lighting, heating and glass facades.

ImageIn January 1960, Creation ran a special feature on the new arcade using this fabulous cover by artist Owen Walsh (1933 – 2002), which was included in an exhibition of the artist’s work last year at the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar and at the NCAD Gallery Dublin. Walsh’s cover perfectly embodies the sleek, stylish and fashionable outlook of the magazine and the arcade. In addition to his graphic work, Walsh also contributed reviews of art exhibitions to a few issues of the magazine.


As well as it’s regular supply of shops and boutiques, the Creation Arcade was also used for fashion events and exhibitions, as seen in the feature below.


The magazine sought to bring the best of fashion and couture to Dublin, and had regular fashion shoots at Dublin’s modernist landmarks, such as Michael Scott’s Busáras.

ImageAnd what self-respecting women’s mag would be without a regular ‘Bride of the Month’ and fancy Ma-homes feature?!



Magazines like Creation and places like the now extinct Creation Arcade are a fascinating reminder of the material and consumer culture in Ireland in the second half of the twentieth century, a story not often told in the history of the period.

However, there is something wonderful about the fact that amid the adverts for Dior, silk stockings and the most intricate and constricting looking examples of foundation wear, the age of worrying about heating cost and the potential for leaving the immersion on was just about to dawn…