Who Do We Say We Are? Irish Art 1922 | 2022

Author: Gina Costa

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The Snite Museum of Art renews its partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the O’Brien Collection in Chicago to present Who Do We Say We Are? Irish Art 1922 | 2022. The exhibition exploring Irish national identity will be on display February 5 through May 15, 2022.

The collaboration is part of a multi-faceted, international effort to commemorate the historic events of 1922 and examine their legacy on contemporary Ireland. In spearheading these centenary events, the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs brought its Midwest partners together with their peers from Trinity College Dublin, the Centre Culturel Irlandais and the University of Paris-Sorbonne to offer an unparalleled menu of music, literature, theatrical performances and visual arts.

The year 1922 marked a turning point for Ireland: the modern Irish state was essentially founded with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty; James Joyce’s novel Ulysses was published; and the Irish Race Congress, a conference with an accompanying art exhibition that aimed to redefine Irish identity for an international audience, took place in Paris.

One hundred years later, Who Do We Say We Are? Irish Art 1922 | 2022 explores the connection between some Irish artists working today and their counterparts presented in the Exposition d’Art Irlandais, the exhibition of Irish art held in Paris in 1922.

“A focus of the exhibition is to investigate how artists, then and now, pictured Ireland’s history and geography, how their work informs our understanding of Ireland and its people, and what questions their work raises about the use of art as a tool of nation-building,” said Curator Cheryl Snay.

Paintings from the O’Brien Collection by Seán Keating, Jack B. Yeats, and Paul Henry—artists who participated in the 1922 exhibition—are juxtaposed with works by contemporary artists Patrick Graham, Hughie O’Donoghue, and Diana Copperwhite, among others, to explore issues of national identity rooted in the diaspora and landscape. An “In Dialogue” presentation of the Snite Museum’s recent acquisition of Walter Osborne’s painting At the Breakfast Table (1894) rounds out the discussion of home and homecoming. And, expanding into the realm of photography, a selection of Ireland’s rural landscapes by Amelia Stein, RHA, engages epic legends and folkloric memories to reveal history and an evolving culture.

 “On behalf of the entire Museum, we are deeply honored to be working in friendship and partnership with the O’Brien Collection, the Consulate General of Ireland, and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of the Snite Museum. “These collaborations bring to life the rich and complex nature of culture in all its variety for our audiences,” he continued.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the O’Brien Collection with contributions by Billy Shorthall of Trinity College Dublin, Roísín Kennedy of University College Dublin, Aileen Dillane of the University of Limerick, and David Acton of the Snite Museum. New recordings of Irish music inspired by the art complement the exhibition. The virtual recreation of the 1922 Exposition d’Art Irlandais that will be available online through Trinity College Dublin is a notable contribution to Irish studies and a welcome resource for scholars and enthusiasts alike.


             Image:Hughie O’Donoghue (British b. 1953), Revolution Cottage, 2014, Oil on canvas.On loan from The O’Brien Collection

            For further information on the exhibition and related programming, see:


Irish Art Exhibition 2022