The artist who dared to paint Ireland's great famine.
February 19, 2016 4:04 PM   Subscribe

"Between 1845 and 1852, Ireland lost more than a quarter of its population to starvation, disease and emigration, while its English overlords hemmed, hawed and, in at least one prominent case, cited God’s will as justification. And yet there is just one painting known to exist that captured the famine as it was unfolding: “An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of Their Store,” which depicts a family peeling away the hay and earth protecting its “store” of harvested potatoes, only to find the dark of rot."

"The painting, by the little-known Irish artist Daniel Macdonald, is notable on many levels, beginning with the time and place of its unveiling: at the British Institution in London in 1847, a famine year so bleak that it became known as “black ’47.” Instead of being offered another image of a sentimentalized Ireland, British patrons were confronted with an artistic rendering of the human misery caused in good part by the socioeconomic policies of their own country."

Macdonald is the subject of “In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire,” an exhibition at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University and a book. The show seeks to resurrect what museum officials see as an “undeservedly forgotten” artist and his daring, evocative work.
posted by acrasis (9 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I've never seen the paintings or heard of the artist. Thanks for posting!
posted by Hop123 at 5:00 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ireland is one of the very few places that has a lower population now than it did in 1840.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:09 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks for posting. I had not heard of this either.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:14 PM on February 19, 2016

I hadn't, either! And I very much like the painting "The Fighter" included in the article. I never would have thought about it as a rare positive image of a peasant for the time.
posted by acrasis at 6:21 PM on February 19, 2016

Interestingly, there are more people of Irish descent in the US than there are in Ireland.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:25 PM on February 19, 2016

posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:53 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd never heard of Daniel Macdonald either, must investigate the book by O'Sullivan. The local library seems to have some by her, but not that specific one so I might try to order it in.

Although I do wish that Gerry Adams wasn't the "go to" figure for representing Ireland outside the country "Gerry Adams, president Sinn Féin, the Irish national political party, delivered the lecture, "Irish America and the Struggle for Freedom in Ireland," at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Burt Kahn Court on the Mount Carmel Campus" (from the Museum link). Adams and Sinn Féin represent a very specific idea of Ireland and Irishness that a whole heap of actual Irish people would object to.
posted by Fence at 3:58 AM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

In Salaman's History and Social Influence of the Potato that storage method, of piling the crop under a layer of sod, is called a 'clamp'.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:15 AM on February 20, 2016

When I lived on Long Island, I got used to seeing potato barns, which are half-buried to take advantage of the earth's insulation.
posted by acrasis at 8:24 AM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

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