The Permanent Collections

Painting Collection

Seán Keating – Simple Folk

Simple Folk

Keating, Seán

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No definite date, oil on linen, 101 x 121 cm (gift of the artist in 1948)


Seán Keating (1889 – 1977) was born in Limerick. He was instrumental in helping to establish a permanent collection of visual art in this city. Following preliminary studies at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he was a pupil of Sir William Orpen, and a period spent working on the Aran Islands, he moved to London to serve as Orpen’s assistant.


Keating’s work is rather more rugged compared to the technically accomplished work of his former tutor. Yet, despite the fact that Orpen is undoubtedly the more talented draughtsman and skilled painter, Keating’s Self-Portrait appears to engage the viewer on a deeper emotional level.

Keating became passionately involved in the cause of promoting Irish consciousness, and many of his earlier works demonstrate a support of nationalist politics and themes. Several of his later paintings in this collection refer to the lives of common rural folk conducting their daily business (The Kelp Burners, for example) and enjoying their recreations (Country Dance). It is interesting to compare Keating’s Self-Portrait with the portrait Sir William Orpen painted of Keating. Although working in a climate of increasing change and experimentation in art, Keating remained a staunch traditionalist and eschewed newer approaches to painting.

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