Iconic painting in Cork's Crawford Gallery honoured as part of centenary celebrations

Iconic painting in Cork's Crawford Gallery honoured as part of centenary celebrations
Séan Keating’s 'Men of the South' will be featured on a special stamp to commemorate the midway point of the Irish War of Independence.
Men of the South

The stamp is one of four created during 2020, to mark this important period in Irish history.

Speaking about the iconic painting Michael Waldron, assistant curator of collections at Crawford Art Gallery, says the work resonates significantly with Crawford visitors. 

"Seán Keating's Men of the South speaks so much to the Ireland of a century ago. 

"It combines hope and tense determination, as well as national and local history. 

"As much as it is about the actions of the War of Independence, it also seems to contain a symbolic reference to the virtue of waiting and withholding fire. 

"It was purchased from the artist in 1924 through the gallery's Gibson Bequest Fund, and has since become a go-to painting for visitors, and particularly the descendants of those depicted."

Séan Keating’s 'Men of the South' will be featured on a special stamp to commemorate the midway point of the Irish War of Independence.
Séan Keating’s 'Men of the South' will be featured on a special stamp to commemorate the midway point of the Irish War of Independence.

Each of the figures in Keating’s painting is a portrait made in 1921 by the artist during a truce in the Irish War of Independence. 

Depicted are members of the North Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army: Jim Riordan, Denis O'Mullane, Jim Cashman, John Jones, Roger Kiely, and Dan Browne. 

Shown in profile, as figures from an Ancient Greek frieze, Men of the South presents six men in a heroic light.

Having invited these men to his Dublin studio, Keating would later say: 

"They trooped in, dressed and armed very much as they must have been on many an ambush."

Much of Keating’s work at this time documented the changes witnessed during the Irish War of Independence, and the Civil War, which followed. 

These paintings were populated with proud and defiant men and women. 

Members of the Fair Hill Men's Art Group pictured with their collective self portrait 'Men of Fair Hill' based on Sean Keating's 'Men of the South' Picture: Clare Keogh. 
Members of the Fair Hill Men's Art Group pictured with their collective self portrait 'Men of Fair Hill' based on Sean Keating's 'Men of the South' Picture: Clare Keogh. 

Men of the South has resonated with many over the years, reimagined by the Fair Hill Men's Art Group and featuring as the cover image for the best-selling Atlas of the Irish Revolution.

Crawford Art Gallery will host two significant exhibitions later in the year directly supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and The Gaeltacht focusing on the commemorations.

Commenting on the news that Keating's painting was chosen by An Post to feature on a commemorative stamp, Mary McCarthy, director of Crawford Art Gallery, is encouraging members of the public to come and view the original artwork. 

"We are thrilled to have Keating’s iconic Men of the South recognised as a key image with An Post, thereby increasing its visual recognition and circulation. 

"Meanwhile, we invite all to come see the original in Crawford where it’s on display as part of Mise Éire," she said. 

Men of the South is currently on display at Crawford Art Gallery as part of the free exhibition Mise Éire, and throughout the year.

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