Monday, January 4, 2010

Painters, printers and mythical kings


Yesterday, I discovered that I'd misstated the size of the DIB by 400% - it's 10 million words, not 2 million. The daily page rate is the same, though the mountain now seems steeper. But it's still more pleasure than pain. Here's a painting by Henry Allan, a Dundalk man who exhibited this at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1889. He studied at the Académie Royale in Antwerp, where he may have overlapped with Vincent van Gogh. This scene is of a country road near the city. The RHA is still a wonderful, unstuffy place: a couple of months ago, while refurbishments were going on, member-artists took over upper rooms as temporary studios, and could be seen, paint-stained, drinking tea in the café.


It's been a day of artists and artisans: Harry Allberry, the Liverpool-born architect who fitted out Leinster House in central Dublin as a home for the Dáil (parliament) following independence. David Allen, the Belfast printer who with his sons built up one of the biggest poster-printing businesses in the world, of which one is shown here. Mary Martha Alment, who benefited from the first art classes for women at the Royal Dublin Society and went on to exhibit at the RHA over a period of 50 years. (A sad note in the DIB: "Few of her works can now be located.) Bryan Gerard Alton, "physician, politician and goldsmith" - who sat in the Dáil, was a pioneer of gastroenterology, drove around Dublin in a Rolls-Royce smoking cigars and was "an authority on graphics, ceramics, silver and paintings, and was twice master warden of the Goldsmiths' Company of Dublin". (This doesn't actually make him a goldsmith, but let's hope he was.) Charles Frederick Anderson, architect, who left Ireland during the Famine and contributed to the extension of the United States Capitol in the 1850s, although his participation in the project was not always acknowledged. Maybe because of this, he "kept a brace of pistols on his desk". William Allingham, "poet and customs official", who wrote:
  Up the airy mountain,
  Down the rushy glen,
  We daren't go a-hunting
  For fear of little men;
  Wee folk, good folk,
  Trooping all together;
  Green jacket, red cap,
 And white owl's feather!

And, my personal favorite, the great Sara Allgood, who was the original Widow Quin in Synge's Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey (her sister Molly - stage name Máire O'Neill - played Pegeen Mike), the original Juno in O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock and the original Bessie Burgess in the same playwright's The Plough and the Stars. The DIB mentions her film role in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley, for which she received an Oscar nomination, where she performed alongside other Abbey Players Barry Fitzgerald and his brother Arthur Shields as well as the adorable Maureen O'Hara. But it doesn't mention her two major roles (pre-Hollywood) for Alfred Hitchcock: in 1930 as Juno alongside Fitzgerald (the film was lasciviously renamed The Shame of Mary Boyle) and in the first British talking picture, Blackmail (1929).

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday. As if 9,700 actual Irish lives weren't enough, the DIB decided to include Ailill Ólom, a "mythical Munster king." Now, I live with a Munster woman, and know they can be quite fierce in defending their prerogatives. But still, when did non-persons get a pass into the dictionary? The apparent justification: the "historical significance of Ailill lies in the number of dynasties that claimed descent from him." Well, those of you who've been paying attention know that last week I made a convincing case for my direct descent from Zeus. So can a rackload of FitzGeralds who appear in the DIB. On this reasoning, the head Greek god should also be profiled. I think this was a mistake.

3 comments:

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alisha

    http://sketchingdrawing.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the encouragement. Please return often ... and if you like, sign up as a follower.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alisha

    http://sketchingdrawing.com

    ReplyDelete