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Illustrating Icons – Collins and Dev


Wednesday, October 12, 2022, 13:05 - 13:55


Royal Irish Academy


Free but booking required

As part of the Dublin Festival of History see the artist at work and learn about how the artwork is commissioned

1916 Portraits and Lives is a project of the Royal Irish Academy that aims to highlight the lives a variety of people - men and women, British and Irish, belligerents and pacifists - involved in the events of Easter week. Artist David Rooney was commissioned to create 42 new and original scraperboard portraits, and the RIA team worked with David, providing him with the research that inspired his creativity. When it came to how to depict Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, opinions were divided. The original sketches for the project presented the stereotypes of the Dev and Collins we know today. But how might they have been perceived in that tumultuous era? Join illustrator David Rooney for a practical demonstration of his scraperboard technique and hand colouring of lithographs, and Ruth Hegarty for a description of the commissioning process and the debates that took place over how to present Dev and Collins.

The Royal Irish Academy published a book of biographies of the people whose lives were, in one way or another, deeply involved in the Easter Rising: 1916 Portraits and Lives, edited by James Quinn and Lawrence William White, with illustrations by David Rooney. The biographies were extracted from the Academy's Dictionary of Irish Biography project. Artist David Rooney was commissioned by the Office of Public Works to illustrate the book and the original scraperboard portraits were then acquired for the state collections.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography online currently contains almost 11,000 ‘lives’ of prominent men and women born in Ireland, and the noteworthy Irish careers of those born outside Ireland.

Illustrator David Rooney’s artwork features in publications by The Folio Society, London, and in cultural centres such as the Titanic Experience, Belfast, King John’s Castle, Limerick; and the Stonehenge visitor centre. You can see more of David’s work at

Ruth Hegarty is the Managing Editor of the Royal Irish Academy.

Michael Collins (1890–1922), born in Co. Cork, he was a staff captain in the GPO in 1916, and emerged as a leading figure during his internment in Frongoch camp. As the Director of Organisation with the Irish Volunteers, he masterminded their campaign in the Anglo-Irish war (1919-21). Having signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, in 1922 he became chairman of the Provisional Government and commander-in-chief of the National Army. He was killed in an ambush in Co. Cork on 22 August 1922. Buy the print.

Éamon de Valera (1882–1975), was born in New York, and from 1885 reared in Bruree, Co. Clare. Educated at Blackrock College and UCD, he became a mathematics teacher. Drawn to the Gaelic League, he also joined the Irish Volunteers and by 1916 commanded the 3rd Dublin battalion. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Released in July 1917, he became president of Sinn Féin and of the Irish Republic (1919–21). He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and founded Fianna Fáil in 1926. He was prime minister/taoiseach (1933–48, 1951–4, 1957–9) and president of Ireland (1959–73). Buy the print.

The portraits are lithographs printed onto 500x500mm (image area 280x270mm) cuts of uncoated Munken Lynx rough paper (170 g/m2), signed and numbered by David Rooney and limited to just 100 pressings. For this colour edition the artist hand coloured each print individually using a range of Windsor & Newton inks. The colour has to be applied very carefully and the nature of the tinting results in every print being totally unique.

Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible (up to 175Kg). ISL interpreter may be available on request; contact

This event takes place as part of Dublin Festival of History 2022. Dublin Festival of History is brought to you by Dublin City Council and organised by Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with Dublin City Council Culture Company. For the full programme please visit

Tabhair tacaíocht do thodhchaí an léinn in Éirinn

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