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‘1916 Portraits and Lives’ exhibition now open in Kilmainham Gaol

13 May 2016

The exhibition features 42 portraits by David Rooney included in our book 1916 Portraits and Lives.

On 12 May the Royal Irish Academy and the Office of Public Works (OPW) officially launched an exhibition entitled ‘1916 Portraits and Lives’ in Kilmainham Gaol. 

The portraits illustrate the lives of 42 men and women whose careers, in one way or another, were deeply involved with the Easter Rising of 1916. The biographies, selected by James Quinn and Lawrence W. White from the Dictionary of Irish Biography, compose an inclusively broad picture of the Rising, representing the spectrum of personalities and perspectives that were involved in the event.

Welcoming the exhibition, Imelda Maher, Polite Literature and Antiquities Secretary of the Royal Irish Academy explained that ‘with this project we intended to highlight the resource for the nation that is the Dictionary of Irish Biography. Editors of the book and now curators, James and Larry have chosen 42 lives; I hope in time you’ll dip into the 10,000 that exist. Paid for by taxpayers’ money, written by scholars, we have recently made it available free online for all schools. We hope this will be a lasting legacy of this decade of commemorations complicating the stories that we tell about our past'.

Chairman of the OPW Claire McGrath commented that ‘the Office of Public Works has had a wonderful collaboration with the Royal Irish Academy on this project. The OPW, has a very important role to play in supporting the work of artists under the Percent for Art Scheme and I am delighted that these portraits now form part of the State Art Collection. This is the first time David Rooney’s original illustrations have been on public display, here in the Gaol, on what has been exceptionally evocative and busy year. It is an excellent opportunity for the visitor to gain further insight into some of the lives – some well-known and some not – that were deeply involved with the Easter Rising of 1916’.

The exhibition is open to the public free of charge and will be on display until 31 October 2016.

A limited edition set of 100 signed and numbered prints of the 42 portraits and of the 3 scenes from 1916 Portraits and Lives is available for purchase from our webshop.


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