Lucien Freud at the IMMA


At the end of last year the Irish Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibition featuring fifty works by Lucian Freud which have been lent to the Museum’s Collection. The loan, from a number of private collectors, includes thirty paintings and twenty works on paper comprising nineteen large-scale etchings and one early drawing. To house these works, the IMMA have set up a new Freud Project in the Garden Gallery, which has previously been used for temporary exhibitions.


The IMMA’s website tells us that

During this unique five-year project IMMA will present a series of different and exclusive Lucian Freud related exhibitions, with a new programme of events and openings each year.  All 50 works will be on display across this first year. Subsequent exhibitions will include works and new commissions by other modern and contemporary artists in response to Freud, and will reveal exciting new perspectives on this major artist today.
As I’m back in Ireland working this week, I caught the late morning fast ferry from Holyhead so I could spend a little time having a look at the exhibition.

As with most temporary exhibitions, especially those featuring loans from private collectors, photographs were “verboten”. Here’s one from the IMMA website, though, a self-portrait.


Reflection (Self Portrait) (1985) (IMMA website)

The exhibition occupies all three of the public floors of the Garden Gallery. Paintings on the ground and first floor with prints displayed in subdued light in the basement.

The exhibits are mainly later works from the from 1970 onwards, and so reflect his style from that period. Like many artists his approach changed over the years so the exhibition doesn’t give a full reflection of his work. Also, although Freud is well known for is paintings of nudes (which pull no punches painting people as is rather idealising their bodies), there are only two in the exhibition. (I felt a little uneasy that one of the nudes was one of his, albeit grown up, daughters).  In both cases this is because the exhibition is made up of loaned works and so is limited by what the owners had available and were prepared to lend to the IMMA.

The majority of the works included in the exhibition are portraits. Freud painted people he knew and the subjects in the exhibition are family and characters from around London. They included his daughters and grandchildren, the “Big Man” – a bookmaker from Ulster and his son, a Covent Garden newspaper salesman, an antiques dealer and former jockey. “The Big Man” appears in several paintings His son, appears with his father in Two Irishmen in W11 (1984-1985) when he was 19 years old and then a few years later in Head of an Irishman (1999).


Two Irishmen in W11 (1984-1985) Source Wikiart

Another Irish character, Pat Doherty, is the subject of Donegal Man (2006), a later, companion piece: Profile Donegal Man (2008), a portrait fragment and an etching (and the plate for the etching is also on display). There were also paintings that featured animals – whippets and horses. Probably related to his “interest” in gambling – also reflected in his portraits of the “Big Man”.

One of my favourite portraits was Man in a Check Cap (1991). The subject is Mick Tobin, a retired boxer who sold newspapers outside Covent Garden underground station. He has an interesting “lived in” face which I think Freud captures really well.

There are two unfinished works on display which provide an insight into how Freud began his work,

drawing in the forms in charcoal and moving outwards from a central area, often the eyes. (exhibition guide)

During his later period he used a thick “impasto” to create the texture of the skin. looking closely at the paintings I could see  indistinct blobs of thickly applied paint with a relatively limited palate – white, grey, brown and fleshy tones. The exhibition guide tells us

Freud’s choice of palette was always muted and earthy; he never used saturated colour, considering that it conveyed an overtly emotional significance that he wished to avoid.

As my son once said when looking at some of Monet’s later paintings – “close up they look like a mess” but stand back and they merge into a coherent whole.

Another aspect of his work is that they are not completely naturalistic. Proportions are not always accurate. This is particularly noticeable in The Pearce Family (1998) of portrait of his daughter Rose Boyt and her family where her husband’s body, particularly his arms, are out of proportion. He also adopted some “multiple viewpoints” in some of his paintings including the portrait of the Pearce family.

I’d never seen some many paintings by Freud collected together in one place and this was a really good opportunity to gain a better understanding of his work, albeit covering only a limited period. It will be interesting to see how the IMMA develops this project over the next few years.

A walk up Yoke and Ill Bell


The second full day of our stay in Kentmere and we’d planned a walk up to the top of Ill Bell via the Garburn Pass and Yoke. We’d had a good view of the two mountains from across the alley during our walk up Nan Gield pass the previous day.There was low cloud on the fells, so there was risk we’d finish in fog and miss the views from on the fells, but we set out anyway as we knew we’d still enjoy the walk.

The start of the walk – the road from the village leading to the Garburn Pass


We passed Shepherd’s Nook


and shortly afterwards we began to climb the path up the pass.


Passing the crags on our right


Reaching the top of the pass we took the path towards Yoke. There was low cloud on the fells restricting visibility but the top of Yoke looked clear.



Looking over the Kirkstone Pass we could make out Red Screes but visibility was poor restricting the view of mountains further away. But on a good day the views are stunning.

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Reaching the top of Yoke (2316 feet) , In the distance, the summit of Ill Bell was shrouded in cloud.


Looking over to the fells on the other side of the valley, the Nan Bield Pass was visible through a gap in the cloud. It was a little like a science fiction film – looking through a portal to another world!


Carrying on along the ridge there was a good view down to the reservoir



A short, sharp climb and we reached our final objective, the summit of Ill Bell (2483 feet)


Looking along the ridge to Frostwick, the next peak, and High Street. We were tempted to carry on but decided to stick to our plan. But, all being well, one day we’ll be back to walk the horseshoe!


This is the view over the valley to Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell.


Looking back towards Yoke


Visibility was improving, and walking back along Yoke we could make out the whole length of Windermere

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and looking to the north west we had a decent view of Rred Screes on the other side of the Kirkstone Pass and over towards Helvelyn


We retraced our steps down the Garburn Pass. The sun lighting up the crags



Looking down on Kentmere village


It was a sunny afternoon when we got back to our cottage – and there were some new neighbours!




It didn’t take long to drive from Blackwell over to Staveley, the village at the bottom of the Kentmere Valley. 3 miles further up the valley driving down a single carriage road we arrived at Kentmere village where we had booked into a cottage for four nights. The road is a dead end – you can’t drive any further.


Although we’re regular visitors to the Lake District, we’ve never been to Kentmere before. In fact we only visited Staveley for the first time last summer when a relative was staying there and we visited a couple of times. We normally rush past on the by-pass between Kendal and Windermere on the way further into the National Park. But during that visit we went for a walk on the hills just outside Staveley and when we decided to have a break during March we thought it might be a good idea to stay further down the valley. And it certainly was.




Kentmere, is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District (which is saying something!) and yet is one of the least visited. Although only about 20 or 30 minutes drive from Kendal (and about an hour and a half from home) it’s about as secluded as you can get. Car parking is extremely limited (so if you don’t arrive early in the morning you’ll have to turn around and drive back down that single carriage road). There’s no public transport – the nearest train station and bus stop being in Staveley- and there’s no pub or shops. Consequently it’s not overrun with visitors.

It’s surrounded by hills and fells and a little further up the valley there’s a ring of high fells which form the basis of a classic walk – the Kentmere Horseshoe (also known as the Kentmere Round).


St. Cuthbert’s Church was substantially modified by the Victorians but has ancient roots, with roof beams which date from the sixteenth century. There’s an ancient yew tree in the church yard which is around 1000 years old


The exterior is plain and restrained especially given the Victorian renovation – they usually liked to add on mock Gothic “twirly bits”.


The surrounding countryside is exceptionally lovely.




We stayed in this building, Capplerigg which is the former Rectory. We were told it was built in the early Victorian period but it has the look of a Georgian house. It would have taken some time for new Victorian styles to percolate up the valley.


It looks like it was originally smaller with a large extension added to the right hand side of the building.


It’s divided into two cottages we had Pengennet, the larger of the two. It was an exceptional property beautifully fitted out and furnished.


There was an Aga in the kitchen (which we had to learn how to use!)








Great views out of the front windows.



A good place to relax in quiet, peaceful, beautiful countryside with some great walks starting from the doorstep.

Castlerigg, Great Wood and Derwent Water


Leaving Castlerigg stone circle we took the narrow metalled road heading south towards Castlerigg farm. Conditions were pretty treacherous underfoot through the fields but we persevered yomping though the gloop until we came to farm where we joined the path alongside Brockle Beck in the direction towards Keswick.

Views started to open up down to Derwent Water and Cat Bells on the western shore


We took a left turn and set off along the path which would take us through Great Wood and the lake.




Just after the National Trust Car Park we crossed over the Borrowdale Road and followed the path along the lake shore back to Keswick. – taking care to avoid the dangerous wildlife!





The rain held off until we reached the jetty near the Theatre by the Lake.  A little window browsing in the shops in Keswick and then we headed back up the hill to our B and B and a nice cup of tea!

A pleasant but not very demanding walk and a good start to the holiday!

Castlerigg Stone Circle

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A couple of miles to the east of Keswick town centre – all uphill – we came to the Castlerigg Neolithic stone circle..Four and a half thousand years old, with 38 stones (some claim more!) laid in a flattened circle in the middle of a field surrounded by some of England’s highest mountains with Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north and Helvelyn to the south east. The high peaks were shrouded in low cloud, but that only made it more atmospheric

It is not just its location that makes this one of the most important British stone circles; considered to have been constructed about 3000 bc, it is potentially one of the earliest in the country. Taken into guardianship in 1883, it was also one of the first monuments in the country to be recommended for preservation by the state.(English Heritage)

The land is owned by the National Trust and the monument itself is managed by English Heritage.

Being outside the holiday season, and a grey day, there were relatively few visitors, so it was a good opportunity to take a few photos.






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A week in the Lakes


We’ve just spent the last week up in the Lake District – an early holiday to celebrate a significant birthday. We stopped a couple of nights in Keswick over the weekend and then drove over to Kentmere where we’d hired a cottage for a 4 night stay.

Although we didn’t have wall to wall sunshine and there were some rainy periods – this was the Lake District after all – the weather wasn’t bad with some sunny spells. The only day that was a write off with wind and heavy rain was the Friday when we had to set off for home. So we managed to do a number of walks. Nothing too ambitious – we certainly weren’t up to doing the Kentmere Horseshoe! – but enjoyable and good for getting back in condition! It was good to be able to relax and “chill out” too, particularly while we were in Kentmere.

In Keswick we stayed at the Lookout on the eastern edge of the town – a really nice B and B. A little walk into the town centre (about 20 minutes) but no big deal especially as it has good car parking, a great view over the fells to the west (this photo was taken from the balcony outside the breakfast room Sunday morning)


really nice rooms, excellent food and very friendly, welcoming and helpful hosts.and a number of walks starting from the doorstep.

It’s just less than 2 hours drive from home up to Keswick so we arranged to check in around midday so we could make the most of the day. So after unloading our bags we set off down into Keswick and had a quick look around the shops and the Saturday market.


After that, it was time for a coffee and cake in one of our favourite independent coffee shops – Java – which is just opposite the old Market Hall.





Re-energised by the caffeine (and well stocked with carbs!) we set off towards Castlerigg for the first walk of our early Spring break. It was a bit of a grey day, but it was great to be back up in the Lakes!

A Tribute To The Irish Community Butte Montana 1916-1919


This was the the third exhibition by a female Irish artist I saw at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin last Sunday. On display were cartoonish like drawings based on the family history of the artist – Amanda Jane Graham – in particular her Grandmother’s childhood memories.

Butte, Montana is a former mining town in the Rocky Mountains. In there 19th century it was a major destination for Irish emigrants who travelled over to work in the Anaconda copper mine owned by one Marcus Daly, himself an Irish emigrant from Co Cavan. By 1900 a quarter of the town’s residents were Irish, including the artist’s great grandparents and their young daughter, Mary.

Her great grandparents, like many of the emigrant community in Butte, were supporters of the Republican Fenian movement.  At the age of three her Grandmother unknowingly smuggled money raised by the women of Butte for “The Cause” into Ireland to aid the 1916 rising in Dublin – hidden in the mattress, pillow and quilt of her dolls pram. It had been decided by the Fenians in Butte that this would be the best way to get the money across the Atlantic.

The very pram was on display as the centrepiece of the exhibition.


The drawings illustrate the both the journey to deliver the money to the Rebels and the history of the Irish Community in Butte, showing life in the main street and the Speculator Mine disaster of June 8, 1917 when 168 miners were killed.

The drawings portray the events as seen through young Mary’s young eyes. So they’re like cartoons in which people are replaced by animals, Daleks and strange half human forms. They reminded me a little of the the cartoons that Terry Gilliam used to produce for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

This drawing illustrates the visit by Éamon DeValera to Butte in 1919 to thank the community for their support for the Republican movement with horses replacing and representing the spectators.


Graham can visualize her Grandmother as a child enjoying cowboy shoot outs or enduring the over crowding in cars as the community traveled vast distances to listen to DeValera at the rallies.She can still sense the apprehension when she recalls the stories of the mine bell ringing as her Grandmother witnessed one of the worst mining disaster in American history. (artist’s website)