Monday 24 July 2017

Synge's photography exposed at last

Art technician Antoinette Emoe pushes the 'Reclining Figure No 2' by Henry Moore, as her colleagues Mark Brehan and Graham Cahill hang Jack B Yeats's paintings 'The Small Ring' (1930) and 'Ball Alley' (1927) at the Irish Museum of Modern Art
Art technician Antoinette Emoe pushes the 'Reclining Figure No 2' by Henry Moore, as her colleagues Mark Brehan and Graham Cahill hang Jack B Yeats's paintings 'The Small Ring' (1930) and 'Ball Alley' (1927) at the Irish Museum of Modern Art
Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

THEY are famous as some of our best-known playwrights and patriots, but a new exhibition reveals how each was also a keen photographer.

A major collection at the Irish Museum Of Modern Art (IMMA) is to feature rare photographs taken by playwrights JM Synge and George Bernard Shaw, along with human-rights activist and rebel Roger Casement.

It was in 1898 that JM Synge arrived on the Aran Islands to find inspiration after being told to go there and "find a life that has never been expressed in literature" by his friend WB Yeats.

The islands provided him with the material for his best and most beloved one-act play, 'Riders to the Sea', as well as his masterpiece, 'Playboy of the Western World'.

However, the same rugged island life that inspired his plays is also to be seen in his personal photographs, shown as part of the exhibition 'The Moderns: The Arts In Ireland from 1900s to 1970s'.

"When you look at his pictures you can see the imagery which inspired Synge. He had a great visual sense, which translated on to the page from scenes he captured like this," Christina Kennedy, Head of Collections at IMMA, told the Irish Independent.

However, while Synge and fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, whose self-portraits are featured in the exhibition, used photography as an art form, Irish human-rights activist Roger Casement picked up a camera to document abuse of indigenous tribes across Africa and South America.

Working for the British Foreign Office, he gained an international reputation for work in the Congo in 1910 when he exposed the murder, violation and constant flogging to which natives were subjected by agents of a rubber company.

He then moved on to investigating charges of ill treatment of natives in the Putumayo region of Peru, again an area of rubber production, where he took the photographs of local tribes.

One of the most ambitious exhibitions ever undertaken by IMMA, 'The Moderns' features some 250 works by more than 180 artists, writers, film-makers, architects, designers and composers, from Eileen Gray to Jack B Yeats and Francis Bacon, to first editions by Irish writers, including James Joyce, Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney.

The exhibition will be officially opened by Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Mary Hanafin at 7.30pm next Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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