Visualising the Revival
In addition to publishing influential Irish writers of the day, the magazine featured plates by painters such as Jack Yeats, William Orpen, Dermot O’Brien, Gerald Festus Kelly, Nathaniel Hone, Norman and Jack Morrow as well as artists affiliated with the Arts and Crafts Movement such as Harry Clarke, Sarah Purser, Wilhelmina Geddes, Beatrice Elvery, Grace Gifford, and others. Among the reviews which appeared after the first number, several columnists commented on the artwork in the Review. For instance, the nationalist Freeman’s Journal appreciated the aesthetics of the magazine: ‘The first number makes a most attractive appearance; it is handsomely printed on a stately page, and the seemingly grey-blue cover is distinctive and distinguished… A feature that should be very interesting is the monthly plate by an Irish artist’. On the other hand, the Dublin Daily Express attacked the partisan nature of the Review and was vehement, in particular, about the artwork by William Orpen: ‘The first number of this new periodical is disappointing… the cloven hoof of the Nationalist shows through the mask of the reviewer. The art frontispiece is grotesque and ugly. It repels the eye, and tells no story’ (IR Apr. 1911). Grotesqueness seems to be the mood also for Jack B. Yeats’s watercolour ‘The Tinker’s Curse’ (IR Oct. 1911) depicting a traveler imprecating with a stick in his hand. Jack B. Yeats also contributed ‘A Night in Ballycastle’ (IR Apr. 1911) representing two dark figures illuminated by an oil lamp and playing cards. The original painting, dated around 1909 and alternatively known as ‘A Summer Evening (in Ballycastle)’, also appeared in Padraic Colum’s 1912 book My Irish Year.
The Review regularly published artwork from brothers Norman and Jack Morrow, who were painters and cartoonists originally from Belfast, connected with the Ulster Literary Theatre and Bulmer Hobson’s network (DIB). George Russell, in addition to his articles on the state of agriculture and rural life in Ireland produced a number of paintings showcasing his mysticism and celticist interests. Stained-glass artists of An Túr Gloine, Sarah Purser, Beatrice Elvery, Wilhelmina Geddes contributed, respectively, a portrait of a fisherwoman of Kinsale, a drawing of the Arts Club, and an illustration of a traditional ballad. Harry Clarke also published an illustration for Yeats’s poem ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ entitled ‘The Silver Apples of the Moon, the Golden Apples of the Sun’ (IR Jul. 1913). Grace Gifford who was engaged with Joseph Mary Plunkett and then married to him a few hours before his execution, contributed two cartoons satirizing literary figures of the day such as in ‘Abbey Players’ (IR Jul. 1911) and in ‘Cupid and Psyche’ (IR Sept.-Nov. 1914), the latter caricaturing George Moore and his typist.
Other artists whose plates appeared in the Review included Gerald Festus Kelly’s Burmese portraits ‘The Golden Parasol, Ma-Thein-Kin’ (IR Aug. 1911) and ‘A Burmese Girl’ (IR Apr. 1912), inspired by his sojourn in Burma between 1908 and 1909. Kelly was born in London from a family of Irish descent and worked primarily in England. He spent some time in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century and interacted with the major impressionist and post-impressionist painters such as Monet, Degas, and Cézanne. Hugh Lane became his patron in 1908 (ODNB). Kelly’s paintings of orientalist outlook, appearing alongside essays by literary critics such as John Eglinton (‘Thomas Moore as a Theologian’, IR Jul. 1911) and Standish O’Grady (‘Paganism—Greek and Irish’, IR Aug. 1912) project an image of the Irish Review as also partaking in the exoticism and primitivism typical of certain strands of Modernism.
The Review also published Irish-themed paintings of rural and bucolic scenes like the ones by Dermot O’Brien and the Irish coastal landscapes of Nathaniel Hone and Jack Morrow. The Review’s continuous and consistent investment in the visual arts―notwithstanding financial difficulties, editorial changes, artistic divergences and a more politicised focus in the final year―testifies to the magazine’s commitment to a view that Revivalism in Ireland entailed a concerted effort to engage audiences across multiple disciplines, from literature to the visual arts, from political propaganda to the social sciences. As such, during the Revival, artists and activists were equally involved in literary, political, and social enterprises and did not see each of these aspects as mutually exclusive.