« PreviousContinue »
Here was placed the holy chalice that held the sacred wine,
D. F. MacCarthy.
This was the time when the High Crosses of Ireland were carved and set up. They vie with the Round Towers in interest and in the display of skill. What the towers have in perfection, masonry and construction, the crosses have in artistic carving and symbolic design. No two crosses are alike; they are as varied as the clouds in an Irish sky or the pebbles on the beach or the flowers in a garden. They were carved in reverence by those who knew and esteemed their art, and lavished all their skill and knowledge on what they most valued and treasured. They were not set up as grave-marks merely—theirs was a higher and loftier mission. They were raised in places where some great event or period was to be commemorated—they were erected where some early disciple of the Cross could stand beside one of them and from any panel could tell the foundation of the Faith, for there in stone was story after story, from the Old Testament and the New, that gave him his text, and so, as at the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnois, a missioner could preach on every recurring holy day from Christmas to Christmas, with ever his text in stone before him. Many a broken and mutilated cross has been set up in Ireland in recent years, proving that the heart of the Gael, no matter how rent and broken, is still inclined to bind up the broken wounds of her past glories.
With the religious orders there came to Ireland a widespread desire to add something to the older sanctuaries of the Gael, to widen their borders and strengthen their cords, and so the abbeys were founded. Here and there we find them stillby winding rivers, on rich meadows, in glens and glades, by the sea margin, or on the slopes of the rugged mountain. Their crumbling walls and broken windows can still be traced, their towers are still to be seen over tree tops and in the centre of many a slumbering town. By the shores of Donegal Bay the old Franciscan house, where the Four Masters compiled what is perhaps the most remarkable record possessed by any nation, is still clothed in ivy. At Kilconnell, in Galway, their old place is almost as they left it, but roofless, with the tears of the friars upon the altar steps. Clare Galway has a tower worth travelling half a continent to see. By the Boniet River, at Drumahaire, on the banks of Lough Gill, are the mason marks of the cloister builders, and the figure of St. Francis talking to the birds is still there. The abbey is roofless and empty, and so the birds of the air are his constant companions.
Space forbids, or endless abbeys might be described. The Black Abbey at Kilkenny, with its long row of Butler effigies, or the Cathedral of Saint Canice, still perfect, with its soaring round tower beside it, or the mystical seven light window of the Franciscan friary by the Nore, with the old mill-weirs running free to this day. How long could we ponder by the east window of Kilcooley, with tracery like a spider's web, and listen to the mystical bells, or gaze at the beautiful oriel at Feenagh, or stand at Jerpoint, with its spacious cloisters and stone-groined choir, with Saint Christopher in Irish marble beside us.
Cashel, one of the wonders of the world, grows up suddenly into sight on a high rock rising from level land crowned with buildings. A great abbey dominates; beside it clings that carved gem of a stone-roofed church, Cormac's Chapel. Round Tower and Cross are there, and many a sculptured tomb.
Not far from Cashel is the Abbey of Holy Cross, with its lovely mitred windows, shadowed in the river passing at its feet. The circular pillars and arches of Boyle Abbey are splendidly proportioned, whilst the cloisters of Sligo display in their long, shadowy recesses and ornamented pillars great dignity and beauty. The windows and monuments of Ennis Friary, founded by the O'Briens, are of unusual interest, the carving of figure-subjects being equal to the best of their age.
We have Thomastown and Callan, Dunbrody and Tintern, all having an individual charm and interest that not only dim the eye and make the blood course freely in every one of Irish stock when he looks upon what is and thinks of what was, but even in the coldest light give food for thought to every one
desirous of knowing something of the growth and civilization of a great people.
Of the many castles and stout Irish strongholds it is hard to write in such a short paper as this. Those on the Boyne, such as Trim, for strong building and extent, excel in many ways. Carlingford, Carrickfergus, and Dunluce have by their size and picturesque situations ever appealed to visitors. They are each built on rocks jutting into the sea, Dunluce on a great perpendicular height, the Atlantic dashing below. Dunamace, near Maryborough, in the O'More country, appears like Cashel, but is entirely military. The famed walled cities of Kells, in Kilkenny, and Fore, in Westmeath, are remarkable. Each has an abbey, many towers, gates, and stout bastions. The great keeps of the midland lords, the towers of Granuaile on the west coast, and the traders' towers on the east coast, especially those of Down, afford ample material for a study of the early colonizing efforts of different invaders, as well as providing incidents of heroism and romance. These square battlemented towers can be seen here and there in
district. Every portion of Ireland has its ruins. Earthworks, stone forts, prehistoric monuments, circular stone huts, early churches, abbeys, crosses, round towers, castles of every size and shape are to be found in every county, some one in every parish, all over Ireland. It is almost invidious to name any in particular where the number is so great.
Proceedings of Royal Irish Academy (Dublin); Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries (Dublin); Ulster Journal of Archæology, Old Series and New Series, edited by F. J. Bigger, Belfast; Wakeman: Handbook of Irish Antiquities (Dublin, 1891); Stokes: Early Christian Art in Ireland (Dublin, 1887); Petrie: Round Towers and Ancient Architecture of Ireland (Dublin, 1845).
MODERN IRISH ART
By D. J. O'DONOGHUE,
and excellent artists, that there has always been in modern times an art consciousness in Ireland, but it is impossible to assert that there has been any artistic unity in her people. She has produced no school, but merely a great number of brilliant painters, sculptors, and engravers, chiefly for export. With all our acknowledged artistic capacity, we have not, except in one notable instance, produced a cumulative art effect. The history of Irish art is almost uniformly a depressing narrative. During a comparatively brief period in the eighteenth century-significantly enough, it was while the country enjoyed a short spell of national life—there was something like a national patronage of the artist, and the result is visible in the noble public buildings and beautiful houses of the Irish capital, with their universally admired mantelpieces, doors, ceilings, fanlights, ironwork, and carvings. In short, while Ireland had even a partly unfettered control of her own concerns, the arts were generously encouraged by her government and by the wealthy individual. When other European capitals were mere congeries of rookeries, Dublin, the centre of Irish political life, possessed splendid streets, grandly planned. But there was little solidarity among the artistic fraternity. > Various associations of artists were formed, which held together fairly well until the flight of the resident town gentry after the Union, and many admirable artists were trained in the schools of the Royal Dublin Society, but, since the opening of the nineteenth century, there has been almost no visible art effort in Dublin. True, there have been many fine artists, who have made a struggle to fix themselves in Dublin, but, as with the Royal Hibernian Academy, of which the best of them were members, the struggle has been a painful agony. Usually the artist migrated to London to join the large group of Irishmen working there; a few others went to America and obtained an honored place in her art annals. Those who went to
England secured in many cases the highest rewards of the profession. Several, like Barry, Hone, Barrett, and Cotes, were founders or early members of the Royal Academy; one, Sir Martin Shee, became its President. Nevertheless, many distinguished artists remained in Dublin, where the arts of portrait-painting and engraving were carried to a high pitch of excellence.
This record must necessarily be of a chronological character, and can only take note of those whose works have actual value and interest, historical or other. Edward Luttrell (16501710) did some excellent work in crayon or pastel, while Garrett Murphy (A. 1650-1716), Stephen Slaughter (d. 1765), Francis Bindon (d. 1765), and James Latham (1696-1747), 'have each left us notable portraits of the great Irish personages of their day. To fellow countrymen in London, Charles Jervas (1675 ?-1739), Thomas Hickey (d. 1816?), and Francis Cotes, R. A. (1725-1770), we owe presentments of other famous people. George Barrett, R. A. (1728-1784), one of the greatest landscapists of his time; Nathaniel Hone, R. A. (1718-1784), an eccentric but gifted painter, with an individuality displayed in all his portraits; James Barry, R. A. (1741-1806), still more eccentric, with grand conceptions imperfectly carried out in his great historical and allegorical pictures :—these, with Henry Tresham, R. A. (1749 ?1814), and Matthew Peters, R. A. (1742-1814), historical painters of considerable merit, upheld the Irish claim to a high place in English eighteenth century art. A little later, miniaturists such as Horace Hone, A. R. A. (1756-1825), George Chinnery (1774-1852), and Adam Buck (1759-1844), also worked with remarkable success in London. Among resident Irish artists, the highest praise can be given to the miniature painters, John Comerford (1770?1832) and Charles Robertson (1760-1821), and to the portrait-painters, Robert Hunter (Al. 1750-1803) and (especially) Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808), of whose work Ireland possesses many distinguished examples. Some day Hamilton's pictures will appeal to a far wider public than his countrymen can provide. One must omit the names of many clever Irish artists like the Wests, Francis and Robert, who were the most successful teachers of perhaps any time