Lot 58: Robert Ballagh (b.1943)The Distant PastOil on canvas, 86.5 x 59 (34 x 23¼'')Signed and dated 1978 versoFront cover design for 'The Distant Past' by William Trevor (1979)Exhibited: 'Foreign Exhibition', 1979, Catalogue No.40.Literature: Robert
December 7, 2016
Dublin 2, Dublin, IrelandLive Auction
Description: Robert Ballagh (b.1943)The Distant PastOil on canvas, 86.5 x 59 (34 x 23¼'')Signed and dated 1978 versoFront cover design for 'The Distant Past' by William Trevor (1979)Exhibited: 'Foreign Exhibition', 1979, Catalogue No.40.Literature: Robert Ballagh by Ciaran Carthy, 1986, mentioned page 163.Dublin born artist Robert Ballagh has worked in numerous, but always recognisable, styles, but has most often been labelled a pop artist and a photorealist. His painting career began in 1966, working as an assistant to Michael Farrell where he received his only training, and is otherwise self taught. Just three years later he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, and since then has enjoyed success at home in Ireland, with a full scale retrospective at the RHA in 2006, as well as holding solo shows abroad in Sweden, Russia, Bulgaria and Poland.Active both artistically and politically, Ballagh is a member of Aosdana, held an honorary presidency role at the International Association of Art, and coordinated the 75th anniversary commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in 1991 as well as the opening ceremonies of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games and the 2006 Ryder Cup. His design skills were put to use further in the public realm when he designed the last series of Irish Banknotes before the introduction of the euro, and he has designed over 70 postage stamps. He has also designed numerous theatre sets, most famously for Riverdance. His paintings can be found in the major collection including the National Gallery of Ireland, Ulster Museum, Trinity College Dublin and Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery.This work was one of several book covers commissioned from Ballagh by Poolbeg Press. It was the cover for the book The Distant Past a collection of short stories by William Trevor. It is a reflection on the way old wounds still bleed in Ireland. As Ciaran Carty explains in his book on Ballagh :- ... a framed photograph of a British Army officer hangs askew in a drawing room, the glass pierced by a bullet, blood dripping down the wallpaper. The B & W photograph is no ordinary British Army officer but that of General Maxwell who was sent to Ireland by the British Minister of War Lord Kitchener to quell the Easter Rising and pacify Ireland . He arrived in Dublin on 28th April 1916 and operated under martial law. On arrival he proclaimed Most rigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing by their armed resistance to the law. But he then added: If necessary, I shall not hesitate to destroy all buildings within any area occupied by rebels, and I warn all person within the area now surrounded by His Majestys troops, forthwith to leave such areas.. Maxwell would only accept unconditional surrender from the rebels and blamed political weakness for the situation in the first place. He gained infamy in Ireland through his ordering the execution of the Easter 1916 leaders in Kilmainham and his grave mishandling of these executions .