Mar 5 • 30M

All at sea: the Port of Cork collection

A new exhibition of paintings celebrates Cork's maritime heritage and so much more; Crawford Art Gallery assistant curator Dr Michael Waldron gives us a tour.

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Appears in this episode

Ellie O'Byrne
Your weekly Saturday fix of culture in a mix of podcast and print format: music, books, art, theatre, dance, film and more.
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Please remember to click play above to listen to the audio interview about the paintings.


“If you know Cork harbour, you know the smell of it, the wind, what it’s like on a sunny day. You can transport yourself there quite easily, based on the textures the artist is calling up and the colours.”

Dr Michael Waldron with George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson’s Shipping Off Cobh. Photo: Ellie O’Byrne

A little background:

The development of Cork’s cityscape is bringing with it many changes, not least the eventual planned relocation of all the Port of Cork’s operations from Cork city to Ringaskiddy.

Port of Cork sign. Photo: Ellie O’Byrne

Future plans for a bridge near Tivoli would restrict access for larger ships to the historic city quaysides, and in any case, Cork Harbour Commissioner’s former Custom House HQ, designed by William Hargrave in 1881, now forms part of plans for a 40-storey hotel on the site of the bonded warehouses at Custom House quay.

The Port of Cork donated its collection of 17 maritime paintings, which once graced the Custom House boardroom walls, to the Crawford Art Gallery last November, preserving them into perpetuity as part of the National Collection, the collection of artworks owned by the Irish State.

Some artworks and some artists:

Several of the paintings and artists that Michael Waldron and Ellie talk about in the podcast above are here, with examples of their work, but there’s no substitute for paying a visit and seeing these paintings in the flesh.

Naval Frigate off Haulbowline by George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson

George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson (1806-84)

Cobh maritime painter Wheatley Atkinson had an abiding love for, and deep understanding of ships, having started out as a ship’s carpenter in his teens. He was a self-taught painter and several of his works can be seen in the Port of Cork collection. Although Wheatley Atkinson worked as a customs official, as Inspector of Shipping and Emigrants during a period when Cobh was the site of a mass exodus of Irish people throughout the famine, this is not reflected in Wheatley Atkinson’s work.

View of Queenstown by Robert Lowe Stopford

Robert Lowe Stopford (1813-1898)

Dublin-born Stopford settled in Cork as a young man, eventually moving to Monkstown. He made a name for himself as a landscape and maritime painter, an art teacher and also as south of Ireland art correspondent for several London-based newspapers.

Port of Cork by Seán Keating

Seán Keating (1889-1977)

Limerick-born Keating is best known not for his landscapes, but for his heroic depictions of armed rebels in the War of Independence, including Men of the South, and his depictions of rural and island life in Ireland in the interwar period, including The Wind that Shakes the Barley. It’s uncertain why he painted his circa 1960 landscape painting of the Port of Cork, but it may have been a commission.

The exhibition:

The Port of Cork Collection is on display at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork until August 28. The gallery is open seven days per week. More info here.

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