Art O’Murnaghan

Life
1872-1954; trained and worked as chemist (pharmacist) but resigned that livelihood to work on Leabhar na hAiséirí, consisting of twenty-six vellum pages commission by Free State, and made up of traceries and quotations commemorating the founding Republicans and their ideal, and was engaged on it for twenty years, 1931-51; taught drawing at National College of Art (NCAD) and exhibited ‘Nature Rhythms’ (lino-cuts) at RHA; joined the Gate Theatre at its inception as stage-manager, actor, designer, composing incidental music; now on display in the National Museum; there is a portrait by Estelle Solomons (see Hilary Pyle, Estella Solomons, Patriot Portraits, 1966). BREF

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Commentary
John Jordan, in Enter Certain Players (Dolmen 1978), p.47, Micheál [MacLiammóir] wrote the Civic Week pageant The Ford of the Hurdles, which Hilton directed and the mansion house ... The text of this pageant has not been published but one of the original players, Art O’Murnaghan, deposited a typed copy in the national library. See also P. Larmour, Celtic Ornament (1981).

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References
Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson 1983) calls him one of the most imaginative artists and most versatile figures in modern Ireland; joined the Gate Th. at its inception; stage-manager, actor, designer, composing incidental music; resigned pharmacy business on being engaged to produce Leabhar na hAiseighe (Rook of the Resurrection [sic for Book]), an illuminated memorial, Symbolist-cum-Celtic revival, whose vellum designs occupied him up to 1951; evolved an original system for Celtic ornament with lines taken from nature, and taught course in it at NCA; highly imaginative set of lino-cuts called ‘Nature Rhythms’ exhibited at RHA. .

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Notes
Remembered forever: His Leabhar na h-Aiséirghe (Book of the Rising) [1924-1951] commemorates people of 1916 and 1922 in a manner recalling the spiritual, cultural and mythological history of pre-Christian Ireland; 36 illuminations on vellum; funds ran out in 1927; wrote plays for Gate as Arthur Kells; appointed national scribe in 1943.

Portrait: There is an oil portrait by Estelle Solomons (see Hilary Pyle, Estella Solomons, Patriot Portraits, 1966).

The ‘Eire page’ consists of elaborate though chaste Celtic filgree designs with insets of birds in volutes of initial E in EIRE, the word scripted as on Irish stamps c.1940, and occupying one-fifth of vellum page, on clear space overlaid upon a list of Ireland’s names [Eire ‘Banba Inisfail, Inis-Ealga, Fodla, Scota, Ierne, Hibernia, Moira, Iuverna’] and bodies of Gaelic text, shown through windows in the ornamental panels. (See Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia, London: Thames & Hudson 1983, ill.)

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