The Permanent Collections

Painting Collection

Seán O’Sullivan – A Kerry Pub

A Kerry Pub

O’Sullivan, Seán

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1939, oil on panel, 34 x 38 cm (acquired by the gallery in 1948)


Seán O’Sullivan (1906-1964) was born in Dublin. He followed the path of many an aspiring artist at the beginning of the 20th century, leaving home to pursue his studies in Paris, where he met James Joyce. Upon his return to Dublin, O’Sullivan worked as an illustrator and portrait artist.

His keenly observed leisurely exchange between two locals over a pint in A Kerry Pub evokes a time when life in Ireland seemed to roll along at a slower pace. O’Sullivan successfully captures that sense of the moment that we have come to know through photography. Yet in someway, this subject seems better suited to paint: giving the impression that ‘the moment’ inside the pub is some what more protracted, than moments spent outside the bar. The men do not seem to be in any particular hurry to leave the premises; in fact, they seem quite at ease as ‘sitters’ for the artist.

They are obviously at home in this environment, the high colour in their cheeks suggesting that, these fellows were no strangers to Kerry pubs! For some time, Ireland exported an image of the pub as a place to meet and talk in a relaxed environment, a sort of northern European equivalent of the continental café society.

A Kerry Pub unsentimentally records a time in recent Irish history when these meetings were the order of the day, a habit that has changed with changes in our economic circumstances and social structure.

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