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Representing Irishness in Words and Images ; Erskine Nicol’s Illustrations of Tales of Irish Life and Character

L’Irlande en mots et en images : les illustrations de Tales of Irish Life and Character d’Erskine Nicol
Amélie Dochy

Résumés

Erskine Nicol (1825-1904) est un peintre écossais qui consacra la plus grande partie de son œuvre à la représentation de l’Irlande et des Irlandais. Très célèbre auprès des Britanniques à partir des années 1850, Nicol vendait des toiles en Grande-Bretagne, en Irlande, et exposa également aux États-Unis et en France. C’est pourquoi ses représentations de l’île d’Émeraude furent très influentes dans la construction d’une iconographie de l’Irlande à l’étranger. Certaines de ces œuvres furent même utilisées pour illustrer des ouvrages portant sur l’Irlande, tel le recueil de nouvelles d’Anna Maria Hall, Tales of Irish Life and Character, publié à Londres en 1909. Dans quelle mesure cet ouvrage illustré offre-t-il une définition de l’identité irlandaise? Nous verrons d’abord qu’il revient au lecteur de tisser des liens entre les nouvelles et les tableaux de Nicol, qui semblent répartis de manière arbitraire dans l’ouvrage. Nous observerons aussi les mécanismes de l’humour contenu dans le texte et dans les images. Il s’agit d’un humour proche de la caricature, genre qui marque d’ailleurs la plupart des œuvres de Nicol incluses dans l’ouvrage de Hall. Au travers de ces toiles, le peintre crée des personnages perçus comme « typiques » par le public victorien, et propose une définition subjective de l’identité irlandaise.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Erskine Nicol was born on 3rd July 1825 in Leith, and died on 8th March 1904 at The Del (...)
  • 2 Ronald Parkinson, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: Victoria and Albert M (...)
  • 3 A black and white engraving reproducing The Lease Refused was published in The Art Jour (...)
  • 4 Anna Maria Hall was made famous by her book, Sketches of Irish Life, which was published five (...)

1Erskine Nicol1 was a Scottish painter who was sincerely attached to Ireland. He lived in Dublin between 1845 and 1850, and then visited the island every summer. In 1855, he was elected as an Associate in the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, and became a Member in 18592. His work attracted the attention of the British public thanks to its fine quality, its lively colours and its scenes taken from everyday life, often with a touch of humour. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1866, three years after moving to London. Some of his paintings, such as The Lease Refused (Fig. 9), were reproduced in The Art Journal, a magazine published by Samuel Carter Hall3, which is probably how he met Hall’s wife, Anna Maria (1800-1881). She was a successful writer4 whose works also focused on Ireland – a country she had strong connections with as she was born in Wexford. In 1909, her Tales of Irish Life and Character were published in London, a collection of eleven short stories, illustrated by sixteen reproductions of Erskine Nicol’s paintings. Surprisingly, the choice of pictures was not determined by their subject matter, but had to do with copyright issues, as is revealed by the publisher’s note:

  • 5 Anna Maria Hall, Tales of Irish Life and Character with Pictures by Erskine Nicol, London: T. (...)

The Publisher is much indebted to John Jordan, Esq., and to Mrs. Lindsay for their kind permission to reproduce in this volume the fine examples of Erskine Nicol‘s work.5

  • 6 David & Francina Irwin, Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad, 1700-1900, London: Faber & Fabe (...)
  • 7 “Royal Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts,” article from the Scottish newspaper The C (...)

2Indeed, Mr Lindsay belonged to the Royal Association for Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland, a group founded in 18336, whose aim was to “advance true taste and true art,” according to the words of its chairman, in 18567. Once a year, this association used the money paid by its subscribers to buy works from the Royal Scottish Academy, where Nicol frequently exhibited. After being reproduced by engravers commissioned by the Association, the original works were distributed to its members. This might explain how these paintings became part of Mrs Lindsay’s collection. Moreover, the examination of exhibition catalogues shows that both Lindsay and Jordan were collectors of art, and that they were interested in the work of Erskine Nicol. They had already lent their paintings for other exhibitions, and especially for the commemorative show held in 1905, a tribute paid by the Royal Scottish Academy to the artist’s work.

3So, when Mrs Lindsay and Mr Jordan agreed to have the paintings reproduced fourteen years after Nicol’s death, it most certainly reflected their will to preserve his memory. In Anna Maria Hall‘s book, the combination of images and short stories provides a visual, and a textual, definition of Irish identity, and this article will delve into the role of Nicol’s pictures in this definition. It will first explore how words and images interact in the book and assess the role of the reader as he notes the common perspectives offered by the two semiotic systems, verging on stereotypes. This will be followed by an analysis of the stereotyped features of the characters, focusing on the Victorian prejudices expressed in both texts and images as they resort to humour. In the final part of the paper, we shall observe that such noteworthy comedy offers a subjective definition of Irishness which was likely to please the middle-class readership of the book in London.

Connecting Texts with Images

  • 8 Mason Jackson lists these techniques in his book The Pictorial Press: Its Origin and Progress, (...)
  • 9 Gerard Curtis, Visual Words: Art and the Material Book in Victorian England, Aldershot: Ash (...)

4In the nineteenth century, various reproduction techniques were developed, such as wood, copper, and steel engraving, or etching, aquatint, lithography and photography8. This allowed for a great variety of publications to be illustrated, from newspapers and magazines to fiction and posters. Illustrations played a major role in Victorian culture, so much so that Gerard Curtis describes the “shared lines” between “pen and pencil” as a notable characteristic of the period9. Yet in Hall’s Tales of Irish Life and Character, the unity between text and image may be questioned, as well as the aims of the two media.

5Indeed, the book offers an entertaining description of Ireland: the eleven short stories are written in an autobiographical style, with a first-person narrator describing her meetings with Irish peasants. For instance, “The Jaunting Car” (9-37) relates the eventful arrival of Anna Maria Hall in Ireland, with a specific focus on her visit to Wexford, where she grew up. Throughout the book, the literary device of first-person narration is used, as is the case in the “Bannow Postman”, a short story in which Anna Maria captures the eagerness of villagers waiting for the postman, who brings them news from their relatives and from the world. Furthermore, she expresses her disapproval of procrastination, pride, and superstition, three “immoral” customs that she associates with Irish peasants in the stories entitled “We’ll See About It,” “Illustrations of Irish Pride,” and “Moyna Brady or Irish Luck.” (78-84, 191-212, 310-323). In these three instances, the narrator is turned into a character, and the reader finds out about the conversations that Hall is supposed to have had with her neighbours. This intra-diegetic posture is also noticeable in the narratives of “Beggars” (85-114) – in which Hall rescues a young mother from hunger –, and in that of “Master Ben,” (295-309) a story which calls up a childhood memory – namely the romantic disposition of her own schoolmaster towards one of her grandmother’s servants.

6Here, the reader may note the author’s fondness for sentimental anecdotes. Although Hall did not always express herself through the voice of the narrator, her romantic personality is felt in many stories, and especially in “Lilly O’Brien” (213-284), in which the eponymous character becomes the servant of the Herriott family. In the narrative, Lilly’s unrequited love for Edward has enticed her to flee from Bannow, despite the interventions of family members and of old “Peggy”, a female peddler. Putting some distance between herself and the object of her affection, Lilly leaves the country and goes to work for the Herriotts, a rich family living in town.

  • 10 These characteristics of illustration which started to develop from the middle of the (...)

7Hall‘s entertaining and sentimental texts met the expectations of a London middle-class readership. Literary types which contemporary viewers associated with Irish identity are found in the book: among them are a piper, a faithful servant, a cunning old peddler and numerous beggars. What is more surprising in Tales of Irish Life is that the images provided fail to truly illustrate the texts. While some characters are part of several stories, they are not easily identified in Nicol‘s paintings because these pictures were not meant to represent visually what the stories depicted textually. This was quite unusual because, from the 1850s onwards, artists had developed various techniques for integrating images into a text. Images might “realize” a text, which meant that they represented the characters and situations depicted in the narrative quite faithfully. Or they might “idealize” the words of the writer, adding visual symbols which corroborated the meaning of the text. Alternatively, pictures could “sublimate or transcendentalize”10 the narrative, which happened when the illustrator allegorized elements included in the text, thus offering another interpretation of the story, instead of clarifying it.

8Thus, any title including the word “Tale” generated expectations in terms of illustrations. But in the case of Tales of Irish Life and Character, the reader is misled by the connotations of such a title, as all the paintings reproduced in Anna Maria Hall’s book were not created specifically to illustrate the short stories. On the contrary, they existed prior to them and had been exhibited well before the publication of Tales of Irish Life. Nicol’s works were thus merely inserted, apparently at random, between the pages of the eleven short stories. For instance, Listenin’ to Raison (Fig. 1) serves as an incipit; Home Rule (Fig. 2) appears in the middle of the narrator’s journey while Don’t Provoke Me, Gregory and A Card Party (Figs. 3, 4 and 5) feature in between the pages of the story of the Bannow Postman. Gipsies on the Road and Buying China (Figs. 6 and 7) undercut the progression of the narrator’s acquaintance with Milly Kane in “Beggars”. It should be added that the reproductions are presented at irregular intervals, which may puzzle the reader who tries to make out meaning in this arrangement.

  • 11 “I wish I could bring Peggy ‘bodily’ before you, but she is almost a nondescript. Her linse (...)
  • 12 Good News is the title under which the oil on canvas from 1866 is currently regist (...)
  • 13 James Dafforne, “Erskine Nicol, RSA, ARA,” The Art Journal, London: Virtue & Co., 1870, vol (...)
  • 14 “[The house] belonged to a gentleman whose health obliged him to reside for a time on the C (...)

9It could be argued that Gipsies on the Road illustrates the tale entitled “Lilly O’Brien,” where the character of Peggy is a peddler of sorts. However, her description does not seem to match the beautiful woman in the painting11. Bright Prospect (Fig. 13), placed in the middle of the text devoted to Lilly O’Brien’s love, may be associated with the protagonist of the first short story entitled “A Jaunting Car”, who is so accustomed to going to the tavern that his horse comes to a dead stop in front of it (20). Nevertheless in Hall’s tale, this lover of beer and whiskey is not quite drunk yet, unlike Nicol’s painted character. Some paintings also have a metonymic relationship with the text, as is the case of The Legacy (Fig. 14), in which a man’s enjoyment as he reads a letter is made palatable12. This may be interpreted as the result of the Bannow Postman’s good work, whereas Would It Pout With Its Biddy? (Fig. 12), a “scene of connubial discord”13, might be regarded as the subject of the women’s discussion in “Take It Easy.” As for the portrait of Gregory (Fig. 4), it may be linked with the figure of the absentee owner of the mansion referred to in Hall’s story14.

  • 15 Stuart Sillars, Visualisation in Popular Fiction, 1860-1960, New York: Routledge, 1995, (...)

10The task of reconnecting texts and images is therefore left to the reader, who has to build up a relationship between the two media. Nonetheless, pictures and texts may be said to compose a single entity, in that they are both part of “the reading experience,” as Stuart Sillars writes15. The dual discourse offered by both semiotic systems entices the reader to look out for closeness, compatibility, or a certain concord between the words and the paintings, all of which picture Ireland in similar fashion. As the reader ponders on the connections between word and image, he takes part in the creation of a fictitious world, and this intellectual exercise allows him to enter more fully into Hall‘s literary world. The fictional illusion is further reinforced by the fact that both Hall and Nicol offer a coherent, although very romanticized, vision of Ireland.

11Indeed in Tales of Irish Life, the textual and visual descriptions of Irish customs and character appear to be strikingly subjective, simplistic and generalizing. This is particularly obvious in A Card Party and Praties and Points (Figs. 5 and 11), two illustrations which give us an insight into a simple lifestyle which is presented as valid for all the peasants in Ireland. In both pictures, the composition rests on the same structure: the artist adopts a standard angle, so that the view is offered to the spectator as if he were attending the scene himself. At the centre of the frame is the table, around which the characters are placed, their bodies composing a balanced triangle and conveying a sense of harmony between the individuals. The background is identical in both works and depicts the interior of an apparently archetypal Irish cabin – complete with its beams, cob walls and rafters used to hang clothes. In this setting, the inhabitants seem to live a life of long-established habits, whose tempo is set by discussions, playing cards or peeling potatoes. This iconic representation of the Irish peasantry offers a parallel with the text, in which Hall gives free rein to generalization in what is the most moralizing tale of her book, concluding the story “We’ll See About It” with a concerned exclamation:

Poor Philip! His kindly feelings were valueless, because of his unfortunate habit. Would that this were the only example I could produce of the ill effects of that dangerous little sentence, “I’ll see about it!” Oh that the sons and daughters of the fairest island that ever heaved its green bosom above the surface of the ocean would arise and be doing what is to be done, and never again rest contented with “SEEING ABOUT IT!” (84)

12Notwithstanding the patronizing stance, the tone of this sentence laments what she sees as the Irish tendency to procrastinate. The euphoric expressions used by Hall to characterize the land thus stand in sharp contrast with her disapproval of the peasant’s behaviour. This contrast, combined with the use of superlatives, dramatizes this solemn statement, and applies it to all Irishmen and women.

  • 16 Lewis Perry Curtis has demonstrated that the caricatures of Irishmen made by British artist (...)
  • 17 A shillelagh was an Irish cudgel of hardwood which was sometimes used as a weapon, and in (...)
  • 18 Fintan Cullen, “Nicol, Erskine,” in Jane Turner (ed.), Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan (...)
  • 19 See, for example, “The British Lion and the Irish Monkey” or the “Irish Frankenstein,” resp (...)
  • 20 Mary Cowling, The Artist as Anthropologist: the Representation of Type and Character in Vic (...)

13Such tendency to generalize conjures up more contemporary stereotypes for, contrary to the well-organized, industrious and serious Englishman, the Irishman is presented as a messy, lazy and light-hearted person. This confirms the author’s perspective: the Irish are presented as a primitive but good-humoured people, whose situation may only be improved through their contact with British civilization. This presentation of the Irish is not free from ideological bias: Irishmen tended to be considered by the English as backward, a belief which was fuelled by the racist theories of the time16. These notoriously popular theories purported to demonstrate that the Saxons were superior to the Celts in terms of race. In the pictorial arts, these ideas influenced the way in which the Irish were represented, and they certainly had an impact on Nicol‘s work, who painted his own type of Irishman – red-haired, wearing a green jacket, a red scarf, brown trousers, long socks and often branding an emblematic shillelagh17. Art historian Fintan Cullen further defines Nicol’s “identifiable type of rustic buffoon” marked by “simian tendencies”18 as part and parcel of the popular iconography of that period19. Besides, the attitudes of Nicol’s characters reveal the painter’s awareness of the theory of temperaments, often connected with racial discourses. The Celtic race was associated with sanguine and melancholic temperaments, characterized respectively by sociability, by being “prolix” in “epistolary style”, “playful in humours”, “credulous in trade” and “despairing in danger” while also “furious in warfare”, or loving “simplicity” in dress20. The Irishman’s presumed love of company is illustrated in A Card Party, Praties and Points or Irish Merrymaking (Figs. 5, 11, 10). In addition, the Irishman’s melancholic disposition is clearly visible in Bothered (Fig. 15), an illustration in which the character seems to be brooding over an unsolvable problem. In a similar manner, the simplicity of the characters’ outfits can be observed in Home Rule or in Inconveniences of Single Life (Fig. 2, 16).

  • 21 Fintan Cullen has noted that “The condescending nature of many of these works were deemed n (...)

14Resorting to such stereotypes conformed to Victorian taste, and helped build Nicol’s fame in Great Britain21. This kind of representation was very popular, and soon his work was reproduced in magazines and widely circulated in the form of engravings and lithographies. They were generally well-received by his contemporaries, as James Dafforne explains:

  • 22 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 65. Interestingly, Nicol’s representations of Ireland were s (...)

The peculiar character of the Irishman have proved an unfailing source of amusement to us in England: the pictures drawn of him by his own countrymen, and the anecdotes told of him, have beguiled many a weary hour on the bed of sickness and suffering, and, for a time at least, have dispelled the gloom which overshadowed the heart.22

  • 23 “Irish Celts were among the favourite objects of satire and parody by Victorian comic artis (...)

15The journalist insists on the entertaining dimension of Nicol’s depictions of Irishmen. Indeed the subject remained a recipe for success at a time when caricature and comedy, especially targeting the Irish, were staples of Victorian entertainment23. As a consequence, it appears that the semiotic systems of art and popular literature, stretched to the utmost, verge on caricature. It is worth noting however that caricature was only one aspect of Nicol’s multifaceted humour and that such coded depictions of Irishmen and women did not thoroughly reflect his own views of the country, as we shall see.

Resorting to Humour

  • 24 Henri Bergson, Le Rire: Essai sur la Signification du Comique, Paris: Presses Universitaire (...)
  • 25 L. P. Curtis, op. cit., XVIII.

16According to the French philosopher Henri Bergson, comedy is triggered by the spectacle given by men to one another, be it willingly or not. Laughter can be caused by the observation of some unusual gesture, behaviour, or attitude which is not consistent with the fluidity of human movement, or assimilated to normality. This normal and expected movement, interrupted by repetitive, incoherent or “mechanical” actions, is what he means by the phrase “du mécanique plaqué sur du vivant.24” For example, a man walking down a street who falls suddenly may be a source of amusement. Whenever the body fails to follow the predictable instructions of the mind, those who witness this deviation are amused. Nicol’s Bright Prospect (Fig. 13) illustrates this theory perfectly because the gestures of the character are quite spectacular, with his body occupying most of the space and his limbs moving in every direction. His left leg is leaning towards the left-hand side of the picture (and towards the tavern he seems determined to reach, despite the major hindrance of being drunk), while the movement of his left arm is extended by the bottle in his hand. His right leg is directed downwards, though not too firmly, whereas his right arm is raised upwards. The pose makes him look like a starfish – an analogy which might be related to a tendency for the colonizer to “metaphorize individual men, nations, classes, and races as animals.”25 Taking the argument further, the image may be said to reduce the Irishman to the rank of a mere articulated puppet, unable to master its own body and equally incapable of managing his own country. In the colonial discourse, a physical disorder was likely to mirror a moral or intellectual one, which in turn led to the conclusion that such immoral or deficient individuals needed the control of the colonizer, and justified the colonizing enterprise. Here, the colonized individual is perceived as foreign and distant by the English middle-class viewer, and as distance prevents identification, the Irish become all the more comical.

  • 26 Frank Rinder, The Royal Scottish Academy, 1826-1916, Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1917, (...)
  • 27 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 66.
  • 28 Sidney Lee (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Twentieth Century, 1901-1911, Oxford: O (...)

17Curious postures such as this one are therefore easy sources of comedy, and this is also visible in the attitudes adopted by Nicol‘s male characters whenever they are confronted by their wives. The husband pictured in Would it Pout with its Biddy? (Fig. 12) exemplifies this. In Anna Maria Hall’s book, the painting is identified by a caption bearing this title. But the canvas was also known as Did it Pout with its Bessy? – the title under which it was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1857 and in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1858 –, or as Would it pout wid its Biddy? in the commemorative exhibition of 190526. The change in labels is noteworthy: in early exhibitions, the female character was given a English-sounding first name, Bessy, whereas in later exhibitions, the first name was turned into Biddy, a nickname which was commonly given to women called Bridget in Ireland. In addition, the preposition “with” is replaced by the dialectal “wid.” The presence of the dialect, and of the first name “Biddy”, often uttered in a derogatory manner by the English, might suggest that, as time went by, Nicol’s works were increasingly regarded as parodies of Irish life. Originally, this painting was one of the first to have attracted the attention of the London public to Nicol’s works, according to the Art Journal27. By 1862, he was a successful painter, and indeed fame may explain why he moved to the capital that year28.

  • 29 The painting, also known under the name Molly Brierly, was sold by Christies on 14t (...)
  • 30 This topic hints at an underlying paradox: Nicol provided a visual representation of a narr (...)
  • 31 J. Thomas, Pictorial Victorians, op. cit, 4.

18Contemporary reviews of his works confirm that his success rested on his extraordinary ability to paint facial expressions. Would it Pout with its Biddy? shows a sulky man who refuses to talk to his wife. He has his back turned to her and his sullen facial expression is contrasted with her countenance: she is leaning forward in an attempt to talk to him and the movement of her arm links the characters, conspicuously uniting husband and wife in the centre of the frame. She looks as if she were accustomed to the situation and seemed to know how to resolve it. In a teasing gesture, she touches her companion’s chin, and the viewer guesses that it will not be long before the man turns his head towards her. Her attempt to ease her husband’s bad mood seems to be an easy game for her, as her cunning smile suggests. In Listenin’ to Raison29 (Fig. 1), the woman’s smile is even broader. The expression of the female character facing the viewer clearly denotes her enjoyment as she listens to her spouse, who seems to be spinning a tale in the most eloquent manner – an impression conveyed by the wide gesture of his arm – which may account for the ironic title and amused reaction of the wife30. The custom of telling tales, as well as the talent of the peasants in recounting them, must have impressed the Scottish painter as he visited Ireland. Such domestic scenes are echoed by Don’t Provoke Me (Fig. 3), which is another illustration of conjugal discord, this time with a woman turning her back on her companion. These representations belong to the well-known vein of genre painting, which focused on “scenes from everyday life”, “anecdotal”, or “domestic31” subjects. The themes of genre painting conditioned Nicol‘s work throughout his life, but they also fuelled comedy. These paintings convey the message that discord is part and parcel of marital life, a point of view which had already been presented by Hogarth and his Marriage à la Mode.

  • 32 It was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1851 (F. Rinder, op. cit., 284).
  • 33 “[l’essence du comique absolu] est de paraître s’ignorer lui-même et de développer chez le (...)
  • 34 Gregory was exhibited in 2003 in the Gorry Gallery, Dublin. In the catalogue of the exhibi (...)

19Yet, in Nicol’s works, the life of a single man does not seem any easier, as he meets with difficulties on a daily basis: mending clothes may prove difficult for example, as shows the predicament of the protagonist in Inconveniences of a Single Life (Fig. 16)32, who is sitting on a chair with a torn piece of garment on his lap. He is frowning and his mouth is distorted by a grimace. The viewer can only laugh at the man’s torment; yet his lack of identification with the character also makes him feel superior. According to Baudelaire (who was Nicol’s contemporary), it is precisely this feeling that is the principle of laughter, as he writes in De l’Essence du rire, et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques33. This is also true of Gregory34 and Bothered (Figs. 4, 15) which both combine comedy with an efficient portrayal of human feelings represented as accurately as possible, an indication that the contemporary development of realism may have had some impact on Nicol’s techniques. The verisimilitude of such emotions as pain, concern and despondency, allows the spectator to identify them easily and to better understand the scene unfolded before his eyes.

  • 35 James L. Caw, Scottish Painting, Past and Present, 1620-1908, Edinburgh: T. C. & E. (...)
  • 36 About this conviction of supremacy, see Michael de Nie, The Eternal Paddy, Madison: (...)

20It therefore seems that the pleasure derived from these paintings comes from the acknowledgment of emotions which are all the more entertaining as they do not apply to the viewer himself. Thanks to his faithful representation of human emotions, Erskine Nicol became a master of comedy in painting. His portraits of humorous subjects led a contemporary art critic to claim that “of all Scottish painters [Erskine Nicol] has supplied the greatest amusement.”35 But it is also important to note that his representations contributed to the definition of an Irish identity in the British mind. The satisfaction provided by Nicol’s canvases made for a viewing experience which mirrored the political ideas of the time: the superiority felt by English middle-class viewers as they watched these representations of Ireland reflected the predominance of the British in Irish politics. Nicol’s humour made his vision of Ireland all the more popular and well-accepted, thus confirming what Lewis Perry Curtis has demonstrated: comedy, in the form of caricatures or stereotypes, is an important political force which is likely to challenge or, as is the case here, to reinforce preconceived judgements towards the Irish. As some of Nicol’s comic paintings reasserted the so-called inferiority of the Irish, they were bound to please the British public, who perceived a confirmation of their worldwide supremacy.36

A Subjective Definition of Irish Identity

  • 37 The figure in Home Rule (Fig. 2) is a notable exception to this approach.

21Given the realistic dimension of Nicol‘s work, there is a danger that the viewer might assimilate the identity of the real sitter and his representation, or imagine that the artistic image is utterly faithful to its true counterpart. Nicol offers an artistic representation of Ireland and, as such, it is necessarily mediated and subjective. In the paintings under study, Nicol offers his own perspective, which usually defines the Irish as a cheerful people, living in a pastoral setting.37

  • 38 Donnybrook Fair, oil on panel, 106.7 x 210.8 cm, Tate Gallery, London.
  • 39 S. Lee, op. cit., 14.
  • 40 F. Rinder, op. cit., 285.
  • 41 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 65.

22Nicol‘s paintings of Irishmen generally depict them as good-natured and fond of entertainment. It was a well-known fact that the Irish regularly held important local fairs, the most famous being the one in Donnybrook, which was the subject of another of his paintings in 185938. In Hall‘s Tales of Irish Life, this aspect is illustrated by Irish Merrymaking (Fig. 10), an early oil painting which was one of his best-known works, according to Sidney Lee39. It was painted for John Tennant, who permitted the Royal Scottish Academy to exhibit the work in 185640 and later allowed the Art Journal to reproduce it in 187041. Here, characters from all walks of life are represented, from the local “squireen” – a local dignitary – sitting on a chair on the left-hand side of the painting, to the tenants surrounding him, and the beggar on the right-hand side. Moreover, all ages are illustrated, from childhood to old age in the background. The gothic tower in the distance defines the depth of the perspective, while giving a sense of continuity to the scene. In the images under study, Nicol chose to depict the Irish as a perpetually cheerful people who enjoy all the pleasures of life. Yet it is a vision which traps them in a sort of rural stasis, a pastoral world in which landlords and tenants live together in harmony, all thriving on agriculture. Their state of happiness seems directly linked to this stasis: in this image of bliss, they do not question their condition, or their status within the union with Great Britain.

  • 42 Angela Bourke (ed.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Cork: Cork University Press, (...)

23Of course, this utopia was in contradiction with the political issues of the time, namely the demand for constitutional reform. In the pictures chosen to illustrate the book, the Irish are mainly shown as innocent, and therefore harmless. The background of Nicol’s characters is not a modern town, but bucolic countryside, where they live according to age-old customs which preserve them from the evils of industrialization and from political turmoil. The innocence of the Irish, or their child-like lack of interest in politics was another argument put forward by the colonial discourse, validating the colonizer’s responsibility for the instruction of the colonized. Such a point of view was well matched with Hall’s Unionist convictions as presented in Tales of Irish Life and Character. Her support for the Union between Ireland and Great Britain may have been derived from her personal situation: Anna Maria was born in Ireland and then moved to England with her family when she was fifteen42. After her marriage to Samuel Carter Hall, the couple visited the island regularly, taking advantage of the new steamboats and shipping companies which had opened lines between Ireland and Great Britain. These frequent stays gave Hall inspiration for her writings, which attest to the fact that she believed the Union between Ireland and Great Britain benefited both partners. In earlier writings such as Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc, published between 1841 and 1843, Hall had already expressed this point of view very clearly. Another glimpse of her perception of Ireland and of Irish identity is offered in Tales of Irish Life.

24The Irish were often considered as primitive and lacking good education, and perceived by the British as incapable of dealing with political issues. Such a perspective accounts for the character’s aggressive reaction in Home Rule (Fig. 2) where a man, grimacing and dressed in rags, clutches a shillelagh – a primitive attribute suggesting that its owner is not educated enough to take part in the debate on political questions. The picture is one commonly found in Britain at the time of the debate on Home Rule in the 1870s, which often associated the political movement with physical violence on the part of the Irish. To contemporary viewers, such illustrations might convey new ideas as well as old clichés. Julia Thomas has argued that:

  • 43 J. Thomas, op. cit., 17.

Images are not simply ‘shaped’ by culture; […] they also work to ‘shape’ it, to determine what culture is. Culture […] is constituted by representations; it does not exist separately from them but is produced in […] discourses and practices. […] Illustrations are part of a culture that is itself both textual and visual, and, as such, they play a part in generating values.43

  • 44 Today, historians are still divided. The post-colonial studies of Edward Said, Fint (...)
  • 45 Julia Thomas writes that “Englishness or Britishness” were “more or less interchangeable at (...)
  • 46 Ibidem.

25These values, generated by word and image, reflect many underlying questions and anxieties which are part of any culture. During the Victorian and Edwardian era, the British lived in a changing society, whose moral principles were confirmed or challenged by the encounters with other cultures. Carefully noting the curious habits of the Irish peasants, Anna Maria Hall‘s book participated in the construction of an Irish identity which was so distinct from the English one that one may wonder if the Irish were not considered as yet another example of otherness, as were many inhabitants of the British Empire. This question is linked to the century-long debate about the status of Ireland, either seen as a partner or as a colony within the United Kingdom44. In the context of the expanding Empire, the need to define national identities was central. Texts and images contributed to the construction of these foreign identities, often highlighting the departure from English norms which, at the time, provided a ready-made definition of Britishness45. Indeed, such norms rested on “the ideals of family and morality embodied in the country cottage motif,” “the correct modes of female dress and behaviour” and on “encounters with the other that establish[ed] notions of national identity in their very deviation from them46.”

26The scenes imagined by Nicol “embody” the visual “motif” of “cottage life”, as mentioned by Thomas, and stand for the nostalgic desire for a united community which dates back to pre-industrial times. In Nicol’s artworks, commerce is done on a small scale, at community level, where sellers are peddlers or gipsies, as shown in Gipsies on the Road and Buying China (Figs. 6 and 7). This practice must have appeared all the more old-fashioned to Nicol’s public as the period was marked by the development of specialist shops and department stores in Great Britain. Both paintings portray women coaxing a potential customer into buying their china, a sign of the fascination some British consumer goods held for the Irish. The locals are conveniently pictured as trapped in an earlier stage of civilization, which might have been a satisfying perspective for the British, as potential buyers of such artworks and the definers of artistic and social criteria.

27Furthermore, the female characters are dressed in an old-fashioned manner: they wear large petticoats, aprons and headscarves, enhanced by touches of red, suggesting that the artist was probably inspired by the vivid red fabric of traditional skirts worn by women in the west of Ireland. The prevalence of brown, green and red tones in the characters’ outfits is common to almost all the paintings reproduced in the book. For the Victorian viewer, such outfits and colours visually defined Irishness. These typical costumes and settings are particularly noticeable in Molly Carew (Fig. 8), an oil canvas which focuses on the happiness of the couple, whose bliss apparently results from their traditional lifestyle and who are presented as smiling epitomes of Irish culture. Molly is sitting at her wheel, whereas her husband is relaxing: this is also a vision which reflected the Victorian ideal of the separation of the private and public spheres, in which women and men were respectively given “appropriate” roles. He is relaxing while she is working, stretching his arm and once again holding a shillelagh. Here, the sense of domestic comfort suggests that just as the home and clear-cut gender roles are central to stability within the private sphere, acceptance of the predetermined roles of the colonizer and the colonized were a guarantee of political balance.

28Nevertheless, the artist was undoubtedly aware of the contemporary debate raised by the “Irish question”, even though only a few of his canvases allude to political matters. The Lease Refused (Fig. 9), which was completed in 1863, is one such example. Writing about the work in 1870, James Dafforne was keen to stress its neutrality:

  • 47 J. Dafforne, “Renewal of the Lease Refused,” op. cit., 200.

Whatever political opinions Mr Nicol may entertain about the numerous alleged “Wrongs of Ireland”, we do not suppose that he intended to make anything but artistic capital out of the relationship of landlord and tenant as existing in the sister-island. [...] We, in our critical capacity, are not called upon to express any opinion about this debatable question, nor does the closest examination of Mr Nicol’s picture throw the least light upon it, so as to lead to the just conclusion about the rights or wrongs of either party.47

29However, the second part of the quotation, beginning with the pronoun “We”, unveils the will of the art critic himself to remain as neutral as possible. His subjective appreciation of the Irish question as “debatable”, and his so-called duty not to “express any opinion”, especially as Nicol‘s painting does not “throw the least light upon it” are so many indications of his refusal to take sides. His interpretation of the painting is influenced by this refusal and consequently, many elements of pathos seem misinterpreted.

  • 48 M. De Nie, op. cit., 89.
  • 49 Lewis Perry Curtis Jr. has shown that “rural evictions were relatively few after the (...)
  • 50 Beginning in the 1840s and 1850s, several newspapers including The Illustrated London News (...)
  • 51 The fact that this moving situation still strikes a chord nowadays can be explained by the (...)
  • 52 Emmanuel Bénézit, Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs, Paris: G (...)

30The decency of the Irish tenant on the left-hand side, holding his hat in the most embarrassed manner, and his downward gaze convey poignant misery. Nothing here is ridiculous or laughable for it seems unlikely that the farmer will make his absent landlord change his mind and grant him a new lease – an implicit reference to a major cause of the Great Famine at the end of the 1840s48. In the centre of the painting, set in the landlord’s office, is an estate agent who represents the latter’s interests. The third character on the right-hand side looks as if he were tidying papers and pencils in a box, as if the appointment were over and nothing more could be done. While the posture of the estate agent reflects the unmovable nature of the decision, his facial expression does not disclose any impatience with the peasant; on the contrary, he seems to be sorry for the man. The pathetic scene hints at the disastrous effects of the system of land management, which allowed landlords to rent their lands to tenants for a fixed period of time, and finally to withdraw their only source of revenue from them if the rent was not paid regularly, or if it was decided to clear the estate in order to rear cattle49. The Londoners who saw Nicol’s work in 1864 were given a reminder of the appalling consequences of this system and of the economic plight of Ireland, which became particularly notorious in Great Britain from the period of the Great Famine (1845-1852)50. Today, the painting still attracts some admiration51, as shown by its sale for £21,000 in Glasgow on 11th December 198652.

  • 53 Most of the paintings which were selected for the 1905 commemorative exhibition foc (...)
  • 54 Wilfrid Meynell, Some Modern Artists and their Works, London: Cassell, 1883, 150.

31To conclude, Nicol’s pictures which illustrate Tales of Irish Life and Character offer an insight into the artist’s prevalent Irish themes53, which made “an impression on the public”, according to his contemporary Wilfrid Meynell54. Anna Maria Hall‘s text, although it is not directly connected with these images, offers a similar stereotyped vision of Ireland. The sitters in the paintings, who are mainly presented in sentimental or comical scenes, echo the typical characters described in the short stories. Here, text and image interact to present a vision of Ireland based mainly on the representation of traditional outfits and rural sceneries – oftentimes verging on caricature. In so doing, they offer a biased definition which was likely to please the Victorian and Edwardian public, who were fond of the comedy provided by these domestic scenes, inadequate behaviours or problematic situations. While these themes were commonplace in genre painting, they also conveyed a somewhat distorted view of Irish identity.

  • 55 Richard Muther, A History of Modern Painting, London: Herry & Co., 1896, vol. 3, 11 (...)
  • 56 F. Rinder, op. cit., 287. James Cowan was also a member of the Association for the (...)
  • 57 W. Roberts, op. cit., 157-158. In this sale, it might have been bought by either John Jorda (...)

32As a Scotsman, Nicol’s vision of Ireland was that of an outsider whose concern was also to meet the Victorian demand for entertainment. Consequently, it may be said that his canvases sometimes acted as a smokescreen for the reality faced by the Irish. Nicol probably avoided representing the contemporary political turmoil in most of his paintings because for an artist to sell his works at the time, it required devising subject matter which was to “be an attractive article of furniture for the sitting room […] [in which] everything must be kept within the bounds of what is charming, temperate and prosperous.”55 And while most of his representations of Ireland were in some way warped, Nicol nevertheless managed to draw attention to the sufferings of its inhabitants, which did not escape the attention of his public and, more importantly perhaps, of parliamentarians. For example, when The Lease Refused was exhibited in 1864, it was provided by a certain Mr James Cowan who, by 1880 – when he lent the painting again for another exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy – had become an MP56. By that time, the debate about Home Rule was in full swing, prompted by the support of William Gladstone, who became Prime Minister the same year and secured the favourable vote of the House of Commons on 13th February 1893. The vote happened two years after Christie’s sold A China Merchant (on 2nd May 1891 for 1,200 guineas) in a series of auctions which presented the possessions of the late Mr H. W. F. Bocklow from Middlesborough, another MP57. Interestingly, Bocklow was the one who lent the painting for the 1870 exhibition, and one may wonder to what extent these images influenced the parliamentary debates on the Irish Question.

Fig. 1: Listenin’ to Raison

Fig. 1: Listenin’ to         Raison

in Anna Maria Hall, Tales of Irish Life and Character, London: T. N. Foulis, 1909, frontispiece.

Fig. 2: Home Rule

Fig. 2: Home Rule

Ibid., 24.

Fig. 3: Don’t Provoke me

Fig. 3: Don’t Provoke         me

Ibid., 40.

Fig. 4: Gregory

Fig. 4: Gregory

Ibid., 56.

Fig. 5: A Card Party

Fig. 5: A Card Party

Ibid., 72.

Fig. 6: Gipsies on the Road

Fig. 6: Gipsies on the         Road

Ibid., 88.

Fig. 7: Buying China

Fig. 7: Buying China

Ibid., 104.

Fig. 8: Molly Carew

Fig. 8: Molly Carew

Ibid., 120.

Fig. 9: The Lease Refused

Fig. 9: The Lease         Refused

Ibid., 136.

Fig. 10: An Irish Merrymaking

Fig. 10: An Irish         Merrymaking

Ibid., 168.

Fig. 11: Praties and Points

Fig. 11: Praties and         Points

Ibid., 184.

Fig. 12: Would it Pout with its Biddy?

Fig. 12: Would it Pout with         its Biddy?

Ibid., 216.

Fig. 13: Bright Prospect

Fig. 13: Bright         Prospect

Ibid., 232.

Fig. 14: The Legacy or Good News

Fig. 14: The Legacy or Good         News

Ibid., 264.

Fig. 15: Bothered

Fig. 15: Bothered

Ibid., 280.

Fig. 16: Inconveniences of a Single Life

Fig. 16: Inconveniences of a         Single Life

Ibid., 312.

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Bibliographie

ANONYMOUS, “Royal Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts,” Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 7th July 1851.

BAUDELAIRE Charles, De L’Essence du rire et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques, Paris: Sillage, 2008.

BERGSON Henri, Le Rire: Essai sur la Signification du Comique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985.

BHREATHNACH-LYNCH Síghle, “Framing the Irish: Victorian Paintings of the Irish Peasant,” Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 2, n°2, 1997: 245-263.

BOURKE Angela (ed.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Cork: Cork University Press, 2002, vol. 5, “Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions.”

CAW James L., Scottish Painting, Past and Present, 1620-1908, Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1908.

COLANTONIO Laurent, “L’Irlande, un cas singulier dans le Monde Britannique?” paper presented on September 25, 2009, Université de La Sorbonne.

COWLING Mary, The Artist as Anthropologist: the Representation of Type and Character in Victorian Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

CULLEN Fintan, “Nicol, Erskine,” in Jane TURNER (ed.), Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol. 23, 106-107.

CURTIS Gerard, Visual Words: Art and the Material Book in Victorian England, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.

CURTIS Lewis Perry Jr, Apes and Angels: the Irishman in Victorian Caricature, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.

CURTIS Lewis Perry Jr, The Depiction of Eviction in Ireland, 1845-1910, Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2011.

DAFFORNE James, “Erskine Nicol, RSA, ARA,” The Art Journal, London: Virtue & Co., 1870, vol. 9, 66.

DE NIE Michael, The Eternal Paddy, Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

HALL Anna Maria, Boons and Blessings, Stories and Sketches to Illustrate the Advantages of Temperance, London: Virtue, 1875.

HALL Anna Maria, Tales of Irish Life and Character with Pictures by Erskine Nicol, London: T. N. Foulis, 1909.

IRWIN David & Francina, Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad, 1700-1900, London: Faber & Faber, 1975.

JACKSON Mason, The Pictorial Press: Its Origin and Progress, London: Hurst & Blackett, 1885.

LEE Sidney (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Twentieth Century, 1901-1911, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939, vol. 3.

MEYNELL Wilfrid, Some Modern Artists and their Works, London: Cassell, 1883.

MORRIS Hazel, Hand, Head and Heart: Samuel Carter Hall and the Art Journal, Norwich: Michael Russell, 2002.

MORISSON Valérie, “Evocations de la famine dans l’art contemporain irlandais: une relecture de l’histoire,” in Sylvie MIKOWSKI (dir.), Histoire et Mémoire en France et en Irlande, Reims: Epure, 2010, 137-160.

MURRAY Peter, “Representations of Ireland in the Illustrated London News,” in Peter MURRAY (ed.), Whipping the Herring, Survival and Celebration in Nineteenth-Century Irish Art, Cork: Crawford Art Gallery & Gandon Editions, 2006, 231-253.

PARKINSON Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, HMSO, 1990.

RINDER Frank, The Royal Scottish Academy, 1826-1916, Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1917, 285-287.

ROBERTS William, Memorials of Christie’s: a Record of Art Sales from 1766 to 1896, London: G. Bell, 1897.

SILLARS Stuart, Visualisation in Popular Fiction, 1860-1960, New York: Routledge, 1995.

SODEN Joanna, “Nicol, Erskine, 1825-1904,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, online edition.

THOMAS Julia, Pictorial Victorians: the Inscription of Values in Word and Image, Athens (OH): Ohio University Press, 2004.

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Notes

1 Erskine Nicol was born on 3rd July 1825 in Leith, and died on 8th March 1904 at The Dell in Feltham, Middlesex. He was buried at Rottingdean in Sussex. (Joanna Soden, “Nicol, Erskine, 1825-1904,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, online edition).

2 Ronald Parkinson, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, HMSO, 1990, 219.

3 A black and white engraving reproducing The Lease Refused was published in The Art Journal on 1st March 1870 (on page 200) and another one, reproducing a painting by Nicol called Kept In, illustrated the same magazine on 1st July 1871 (on page 180). See also Hazel Morris, Hand, Head and Heart: Samuel Carter Hall and the Art Journal, Norwich: Michael Russell, 2002, 205-206.

4 Anna Maria Hall was made famous by her book, Sketches of Irish Life, which was published five times from 1829 onwards, as Hazel Morris explains in Hand, Head and Heart, 133, and 12. Nicol was also one of the illustrators of her moral essay entitled Boons and Blessings, Stories and Sketches to Illustrate the Advantages of Temperance, London: Virtue, 1875.

5 Anna Maria Hall, Tales of Irish Life and Character with Pictures by Erskine Nicol, London: T. N. Foulis, 1909, 6. All subsequent references to this work are taken from this edition and the page numbers will be indicated in brackets in the text.

6 David & Francina Irwin, Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad, 1700-1900, London: Faber & Faber, 1975, 285.

7 “Royal Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts,” article from the Scottish newspaper The Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 7th July 1851.

8 Mason Jackson lists these techniques in his book The Pictorial Press: Its Origin and Progress, London: Hurst & Blackett, 1885.

9 Gerard Curtis, Visual Words: Art and the Material Book in Victorian England, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, 7.

10 These characteristics of illustration which started to develop from the middle of the nineteenth century were distinguished by Julia Thomas in Pictorial Victorians: the Inscription of Values in Word and Image, Athens (OH): Ohio University Press, 2004, 55-72.

11 “I wish I could bring Peggy ‘bodily’ before you, but she is almost a nondescript. Her linsey-woolsey gown, pinned up behind, fully displayed her short scarlet petticoat, sky-blue stockings, and thick brogues; a green spotted kerchief tied over her cap – then a sunburnt, smoke-dried, flatted straw hat while the basket of fish resting ‘on a wisp o' hay’ completed her head-gear.” (221)

12 Good News is the title under which the oil on canvas from 1866 is currently registered by its owner, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

13 James Dafforne, “Erskine Nicol, RSA, ARA,” The Art Journal, London: Virtue & Co., 1870, vol. 9, 66.

14 “[The house] belonged to a gentleman whose health obliged him to reside for a time on the Continent, but who had lent his house to his relative, Sir James Horatio Banks, MP, for the summer.” (57)

15 Stuart Sillars, Visualisation in Popular Fiction, 1860-1960, New York: Routledge, 1995, 2.

16 Lewis Perry Curtis has demonstrated that the caricatures of Irishmen made by British artists were influenced by political and scientific developments, such as Darwinism, which is directly related to the simian features of the numerous Paddies depicted in the satirical press.

17 A shillelagh was an Irish cudgel of hardwood which was sometimes used as a weapon, and in Victorian iconography, this prop became the attribute of the stereotyped Irishman. This stereotype can be seen in Don’t Provoke me, Buying China, Bright Prospect or Molly Carew (Figs. 3, 7, 13, and 8).

18 Fintan Cullen, “Nicol, Erskine,” in Jane Turner (ed.), Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol. 23, 107.

19 See, for example, “The British Lion and the Irish Monkey” or the “Irish Frankenstein,” respectively published by Punch on 1st April 1848 and on 20th May 1882.

20 Mary Cowling, The Artist as Anthropologist: the Representation of Type and Character in Victorian Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, 28-31.

21 Fintan Cullen has noted that “The condescending nature of many of these works were deemed necessary to sell them on the British market,’” op. cit., 107.

22 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 65. Interestingly, Nicol’s representations of Ireland were so predominant in his work that some contemporaries -- including Dafforne – were unaware of his Scottish origins and thought that he was Irish.

23 “Irish Celts were among the favourite objects of satire and parody by Victorian comic artists,” L. P. Curtis, op. cit., 24.

24 Henri Bergson, Le Rire: Essai sur la Signification du Comique, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985, 44.

25 L. P. Curtis, op. cit., XVIII.

26 Frank Rinder, The Royal Scottish Academy, 1826-1916, Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1917, 285-287.

27 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 66.

28 Sidney Lee (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Twentieth Century, 1901-1911, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939, vol. 3, 13.

29 The painting, also known under the name Molly Brierly, was sold by Christies on 14th March 1896 for 330 guineas (William Roberts, Memorials of Christie’s: a Record of Art Sales from 1766 to 1896, London: G. Bell, 1897, 303) and by 1905, it had come under the possession of Mrs Lindsay, who lent the painting so that it could be included in the commemorative exhibition organized that year by the Royal Scottish Academy (F. Rinder, op. cit., 287).

30 This topic hints at an underlying paradox: Nicol provided a visual representation of a narrative oral tradition.

31 J. Thomas, Pictorial Victorians, op. cit, 4.

32 It was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1851 (F. Rinder, op. cit., 284).

33 “[l’essence du comique absolu] est de paraître s’ignorer lui-même et de développer chez le spectateur […] la joie de sa propre supériorité,” Charles Baudelaire, De L’Essence du rire et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques (1868), Paris: Sillage, 2008, 64.

34 Gregory was exhibited in 2003 in the Gorry Gallery, Dublin. In the catalogue of the exhibition, it was described as a pencil on card signed and dated from 1893. The card was exhibited from 26th November to 6th December under the title The Second January dedicated to Gregory’s mixture. It was also under this title that the card was sold a few months later by Bonhams, the Auction House in Edinburgh, between 21st and 23rd August 2003 for £212.

35 James L. Caw, Scottish Painting, Past and Present, 1620-1908, Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1908, 163.

36 About this conviction of supremacy, see Michael de Nie, The Eternal Paddy, Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004, 6.

37 The figure in Home Rule (Fig. 2) is a notable exception to this approach.

38 Donnybrook Fair, oil on panel, 106.7 x 210.8 cm, Tate Gallery, London.

39 S. Lee, op. cit., 14.

40 F. Rinder, op. cit., 285.

41 J. Dafforne, op. cit., 65.

42 Angela Bourke (ed.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Cork: Cork University Press, 2002, vol. 5, “Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions,” 528-529.

43 J. Thomas, op. cit., 17.

44 Today, historians are still divided. The post-colonial studies of Edward Said, Fintan Cullen, L. Perry Curtis or Richard Ned Lebow and Roger Swift, published from the 1980s onwards, analyse Irish society as marked by its colonial past. Nevertheless, their theories are debunked by revisionist analyses, such as the works of Roy Foster, who claims that Curtis’ analysis reduces the scope of the debate, or Sheridan Gilley and David Cannadine, who believe that the negative feeling towards the Irish is not so much derived from a racial prejudice than from a difference in religion, culture and social class. See Laurent Colantonio, “L'Irlande, un cas singulier dans le Monde Britannique?”(paper presented on 25th September 2009, Université de La Sorbonne-Paris).

45 Julia Thomas writes that “Englishness or Britishness” were “more or less interchangeable at the time,” op. cit., 110.

46 Ibidem.

47 J. Dafforne, “Renewal of the Lease Refused,” op. cit., 200.

48 M. De Nie, op. cit., 89.

49 Lewis Perry Curtis Jr. has shown that “rural evictions were relatively few after the famine,” and that the role of the land owners in these evictions should be put into perspective, insofar as they were not all rack renters, irresponsible or absentee landlords, The Depiction of Eviction in Ireland, 1845-1910, Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2011, 2-3.

50 Beginning in the 1840s and 1850s, several newspapers including The Illustrated London News reported the poverty, immigration and uncountable deaths caused in Ireland by potato blight, and the lack of other means of subsistence. Peter Murray, “Representations of Ireland in the Illustrated London News,” in Peter Murray (ed.), Whipping the Herring, Survival and Celebration in Nineteenth-Century Irish Art, Cork: Crawford Art Gallery & Gandon Editions, 2006, 231-253.

51 The fact that this moving situation still strikes a chord nowadays can be explained by the fact that the Great Famine has been the object of recent commemorations in Ireland (in 1994, 1995 and 1997); see Valérie Morisson, “Evocations de la famine dans l’art contemporain irlandais: une relecture de l’histoire,” in Sylvie Mikowski (ed.), Histoire et Mémoire en France et en Irlande, Reims: Epure, 2010, 137-160). The renewed interest in this period of Irish history was also aroused by several academic studies, published in the 1980s onwards, such as Peter Gray, The Irish Famine, London: Thames and Hudson, 1995); Chris Morash and Richard Hayes (eds.), “Fearful Realities,” New Perspectives on the Famine, Blackrock: Irish Academy Press, 1996); Margaret Kelleher, The Feminization of Famine ,Cork: Cork UP, 1997; Cormac O’Grada, Black ‘47 and Beyond: the Great Irish Famine in History, Economy and Memory, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999); Laurent Colantonio, “La Grande Famine en Irlande (1846-1851): objet d’histoire, enjeu de mémoire,” Revue Historique, n° 644, October 2007: 899-925 and Niamh Ann Kelly, History by Proxy, Imaging the Great Irish Famine, doctoral thesis, 7th July 2011, University of Amsterdam.

52 Emmanuel Bénézit, Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs, Paris: Gründ, 1999, vol. 10, 200.

53 Most of the paintings which were selected for the 1905 commemorative exhibition focused on Ireland. The eight works were Would it Pout wid its Biddy?, n°133, Praities and Point, n°156, The New and the Old Tenant, n°192, Wheedling Ways, n°193, Ten Miles to Tipperary, n°195, Irish Courtship, n°196, all lent by John Jordan, Molly Brierly, n°194, lent by Mrs Lindsay, and The Wheedler, n°217, lent by Mrs Clark Hutchinson (F. Rinder, op. cit., 287).

54 Wilfrid Meynell, Some Modern Artists and their Works, London: Cassell, 1883, 150.

55 Richard Muther, A History of Modern Painting, London: Herry & Co., 1896, vol. 3, 114, quoted in Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch, “Framing the Irish: Victorian Paintings of the Irish Peasant,” Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 2, n°2 (1997): 250-251.

56 F. Rinder, op. cit., 287. James Cowan was also a member of the Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland (Caledonian Mercury, op. cit.).

57 W. Roberts, op. cit., 157-158. In this sale, it might have been bought by either John Jordan or Mrs Lindsay since they possessed the rights of all the paintings reproduced in Tales of Irish Life.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Listenin’ to Raison
Légende in Anna Maria Hall, Tales of Irish Life and Character, London: T. N. Foulis, 1909, frontispiece.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 910k
Titre Fig. 2: Home Rule
Légende Ibid., 24.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 458k
Titre Fig. 3: Don’t Provoke me
Légende Ibid., 40.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 880k
Titre Fig. 4: Gregory
Légende Ibid., 56.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 474k
Titre Fig. 5: A Card Party
Légende Ibid., 72.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 918k
Titre Fig. 6: Gipsies on the Road
Légende Ibid., 88.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 573k
Titre Fig. 7: Buying China
Légende Ibid., 104.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 503k
Titre Fig. 8: Molly Carew
Légende Ibid., 120.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 900k
Titre Fig. 9: The Lease Refused
Légende Ibid., 136.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 478k
Titre Fig. 10: An Irish Merrymaking
Légende Ibid., 168.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 1,0M
Titre Fig. 11: Praties and Points
Légende Ibid., 184.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-11.png
Fichier image/png, 918k
Titre Fig. 12: Would it Pout with its Biddy?
Légende Ibid., 216.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-12.png
Fichier image/png, 855k
Titre Fig. 13: Bright Prospect
Légende Ibid., 232.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 470k
Titre Fig. 14: The Legacy or Good News
Légende Ibid., 264.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-14.png
Fichier image/png, 463k
Titre Fig. 15: Bothered
Légende Ibid., 280.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-15.png
Fichier image/png, 507k
Titre Fig. 16: Inconveniences of a Single Life
Légende Ibid., 312.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/docannexe/image/5927/img-16.png
Fichier image/png, 519k
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Amélie Dochy, « Representing Irishness in Words and Images ; Erskine Nicol’s Illustrations of Tales of Irish Life and Character », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XII-n° 3 | 2014, mis en ligne le 05 juin 2014, consulté le 31 octobre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/5927 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/lisa.5927

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Auteur

Amélie Dochy

Université de Toulouse 2/ Université de Rennes 2- UEB, France. Amélie Dochy est doctorante en quatrième année, en co-direction à l’Université de Toulouse 2 (Pr. Christiane Fioupou) et à l’Université Rennes 2-UEB (Pr. Anne Goarzin). Elle est rattachée à l’EA 201, Culture et Langues Anglo-saxonnes. Sa thèse porte sur « La rhétorique de l’Image, étude des représentations britanniques de l’Irlande, 1840-1922 ». Depuis la rentrée 2012, elle est également PRAG à l’université de Toulouse 2.

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Les contenus de la Revue LISA / LISA e-journal sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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