Aloysius O'Kelly: Art, Nation, Empire

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9780946755424: Aloysius O'Kelly: Art, Nation, Empire

Niamh O'Sullivan's critical biography of Aloysius O'Kelly's astonishing career as a painter, illustrator and committed Fenian uncovers a world hardly known hitherto except in the most caricatured versions. She gives an account of the O'Kelly and Lawlor families which is part of the internal history of Fenianism, the Land War and Home Rule in Ireland, showing in detail a series of interrelationships, some of them highly scandalous, which had various political repercussions, all of them characterized by the mix of secrecy and publicity that attended upon O'Kelly's dual career as anti-imperialist artist and as superbly skilled and yet highly conventional painter in Orientalist, Celtic and naturalist-realist idioms. In O'Kelly's work we see several worlds interfuse: imperial London, the post-Famine Ireland of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, North Africa torn by British wars and adventures, the increasing influence of the United States and Irish America, the artistic pre-eminence of Paris and, extending within these, the clandestine and shadowy network of revolutionary Fenianism. Niamh O'Sullivan analyzes O'Kelly as a painter operating in and influenced by these different contexts and forces. The result is a complete revision of O'Kelly's status and achievement as a painter and as an artist in whom political radicalism and aesthetic vision were often uneasily but always fascinatingly interlocked. This is a much-needed study.

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Niamh O'Sullivan is Professor of Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin

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