James Connolly (1868–1916) was born to Irish working-class parents in Edinburgh, Scotland. A socialist activist, theorist and polemicist in Dublin, Belfast and America, he was an ITGWU organiser, a founder of the Irish Labour Party, and prominent in the 1913 lockout. Commander of the Irish Citizen Army, during Easter week he fought in the GPO as commandant general of the republican forces. Wounded in the ankle and unable to stand, he faced the firing squad strapped in a chair on 12 May.
The portrait is a lithograph 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.
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 davidrooney.com.
Background to this print:
The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection that took place in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans, who aimed to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798. The '1916 Portraits and Lives' project looks at a variety of people - men and women, British and Irish, belligerents and pacifists - involved in the events of Easter week one-hundred years ago.
The Royal Irish Academy decided to publish 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. 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 RIA team worked with David providing him with the research to inspire him to create new and original scraperboard portraits of each of the subjects and three larger scenes. The scraperboard portraits were 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.