Return to the Land of Youth

The folk art paintings of Seán Ó Séadhacháin  (1901-1991)

Seán Ó Séadhacháin

Folk art is accessible art by its very nature. Free from the traditions and conventions of the art class it can give great scope for personal and communal expression. Under various names such as ‘folk art’, ‘outsider art’ or even ‘naïve art’, it has gained a respected place in galleries of modern art.

The new exhibition of folk art in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life is composed of the country life paintings of Seán Ó Séadhacháin (1901-1991). These paintings were acquired by the National Museum of Ireland in 2011 because they give a special insight into many of the farm and country life practices that are on exhibition in the Museum of Country Life.

Seán Ó Séadhacháin painting

Seán Ó Séadhacháin grew up in west Limerick and spent several years working as a farm labourer in the West Kerry Gaeltacht in order to perfect his Irish. He emigrated to the USA in 1927 just before the great Depression of 1929, where he worked for most of his life as a pharmacist.

He turned to painting late in life and forged his own style. The unique quality of the style is the capturing of iconic people and scenes from the Irish countryside.

Seán Ó Séadhacháin

There is a sombre tone to the colour palette which powerfully conveys the very bog and soil and hues of the pre-electric house interior. Individuals emerge occasionally, but for the most part are subsumed into communal archetypes from the lost youth of an Irish emigrant. Tools and artefacts are often shown with precision. The whole collection is a virtual folk art representation of the great ‘canons’ of Irish folklife – but in an appealing and unconventional way.

Also of interest is that each painting’s frame has been coloured and individualised by the artist to suit each of the twenty-three paintings.

Seán Ó Séadhacháin painting

The paintings, which are displayed in a non-conserved state, will appeal to anyone interested in Irish history and in folk or ‘outsider’ art. The paintings give a fine insight into art as a means of personal expression, the making of something special from the apparently ordinary.

The exhibition will run until the end of December 2012 and admission is free.

Exhibition opening hours:

Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Sunday 2.00-5.00pm; Closed Mondays. More information on visiting the museum...

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