An exhibition of works by members of the White Stag Group, a number of British artists active in Ireland in the late 1930s and 1940s, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 6 July 2005. The exhibition, entitled The White Stag Group, comprises some 80 works and reflects the youthful dynamism and energy which artists such as Basil Rakoczi, Kenneth Hall, Thurloe Conolly and others brought to the Irish art scene, when they settled here, mainly as conscientious objectors, at the outbreak of World War II. Works by Irish artists who became associated with the group, including Patrick Scott and Bobby Dawson, are also being shown.
The White Stag Group grew up mainly around Rakoczi and Hall. Rakoczi was born in London in 1908 of mixed Irish and Hungarian parentage. He trained as an artist in Britain and France before founding the group with Hall, a self-taught English artist, in 1935. They moved to Ireland in 1939 attracted, like a number of other pacifists and refugees, by Ireland’s neutral status in relation to the War. The group held its first exhibition in Dublin in April 1940, followed by a second show in October of the same year, which was opened by Mainie Jellett. In her view the group was the prime focus for Modernism in Ireland and the aim of those involved was “to interpret the times in which we live”, without being linked to any particular school or “cramped by academic conventionality”. Many other exhibitions followed.
Rakoczi and Hall rapidly became leaders of a notable, even notorious avant-garde movement, which attracted many other painters and writers to their “subjective” approach to art. Several artists who had belonged to other groupings, such as the Society of Dublin Painters, became followers of the White Stag Group. Events and meetings became a regular part of their activities, harking back to their associations with the Bloomsbury set in London. The group took its name from the family shield of a patron of the group, Herbrand Ingouville-Williams.
The vigour and vitality with which the group influenced the Irish arts scene in the War years in clearly evident in the works in the exhibition. Hall’s Bird Turning in Flight, 1943, and Drake Resting, 1944, are part-Surrealist and part-Symbolist in derivation, the latter showing the final phase of his subjective style, in which he simplified the appearance of the creatures he painted to a near symbol of their species, while at the same time emphasizing their natural attributes and habitat. Rakoczi’s Surrealist-inspired images Child Flying and Three, both 1943, are typical of his work at this time and illustrate his playful psychological fantasies. In most of Scott’s works colour is secondary in importance to the aesthetic aspects of the linear division of the picture plane. The severely linear treatment of Renvyle, 1943, as well as the slightly more colourful Evening Landscape, 1944, illustrate these concerns, which where to remain characteristic of much of his work. Paul Egestorff, who had studied under Mainie Jellett, emphasized the structural element of his compositions in Stranded Boiler, 1952, he concerns himself with tone and prismatic colour progression in order to enable the eye to move freely around the composition.
The group’s multi-disciplinary ethos embraced many artistic forms, including philosophy, music and literature and some examples of their work in these artforms can also be seen in the exhibition. New recordings of the work of the composer Brain Boydell will be available at a listening post in the exhibition space and on a CD that accompanies the catalogue. Also included are novels by Ralph Cusack, illustrated poems by Nick Nicholls and the poetry of Thurloe Conolly.
The exhibition is co-curated by S B Kennedy, former Keeper of Art at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and Bruce Arnold, critic and art historian.
A concert featuring the music of Brian Boydell, organised jointly by IMMA and the Contemporary Music Centre to coincide with the show, will be held at IMMA at 3.00pm on Sunday 17 July 2005. The concert is made possible by the funding support of Trinity College, Dublin, Varming Mulcahy Reilly Consulting Engineers and Mr Aleck Crichton.
S B Kennedy will give a gallery talk on the White Stag Group and their influence on Irish painting in the New Galleries at IMMA at 11.00am on Wednesday 6 July 2005. Admission is free, but booking is essential on Tel: +353 1 612 9900 or on the automatic booking line +353 1 612 9948: Email: [email protected].
A significant, fully-illustrated catalogue, written by S B Kennedy with an essay by Bruce Arnold and a CD on the work of the composer Brian Boydell, accompanies the exhibition. Published by the Museum, it serves as an important record of the group’s activities, as no such publication previously existed. The catalogue is supported by Mason Hayes & Curran Solicitors. (Price €32.00).
The White Stag Group continues at IMMA until 2 October 2005.
Admission is free.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am-5.30pm,
except Wednesdays 10.30am-5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays 12 noon- 5.30pm
For further information please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900: Email: [email protected].
22 June 2005
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