Art and the Nation State

BookArt and the Nation State

Art and the Nation State

The Reception of Modern Art in Ireland


March 1st, 2021



Other Formats



Art and the Nation State is a wide-ranging study of the reception and critical debate on modernist art from the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 to the end of the modernist era in the 1970s. Drawing on art works, media coverage, reviews, writings and the private papers of key Irish and international artists, critics and commentators including Samuel Beckett, Thomas MacGreevy, Clement Greenberg, James Johnson Sweeney, Herbert Read and Brian O’Doherty, the study explores the significant contribution of Irish modernist art to post-independence cultural debate and diverging notions of national Irish identity. Through an analysis of major controversies, the book examines how the reputations of major Irish artists was moulded by the prevailing demands of national identity, modernization and the dynamics of the international art world. Debate about the relevance of the work of leading international modernists such as the Irish-American sculptor, Andrew O’Connor, the French expressionist painter, Georges Rouault, the British sculptor Henry Moore and the Irish born, but ostensibly British, artist Francis Bacon to Irish cultural life is also analysed, as is the equally problematic positioning of Northern Irish artists.

'An original and readable study, this book presents a wealth of historical detail, constructing a peopled culture of modernism in Ireland with state actors, artists, commissions of art, patrons, and exhibition organisers, introducing modern works that have not been discussed extensively within the history of art.' Dr Louise Purbrick, University of Brighton

'Fluently written, this is an important book that will make a significant contribution to the expanding literature around twentieth century Irish art.'
Dr Fionna Barber, Manchester Metropolitan University

'Art & The Nation State offers a way into the world of Irish visual art accessible to anyone. In [Kennedy's] holistic approach to art history and reference to a wide range of sources, [she] has produced a comprehensive story of modern Irish art which is richer and more thought-provoking than most tomes on the subject.'Alice Quinn Banville, Dublin Review of Books

'Maybe the single greatest tribute to the history of Modernism in the visual arts in Ireland or wherever Irish artists took it beyond the island, is Róisín Kennedy's courageous and nuanced discussion of the impacts it had on audiences, whether they were artists themselves, critical writers, collectors, or the receiving general public.'
Catherine Marshall, Museum Ireland

Author Information

Róisín Kennedy, Assistant Professor, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin.