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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Studio Photography’

James Joyce was an astute observer of both male and female fashions. Within Ulysses he repeatedly mentions the uncomfortable nature of the stiff collars worn by men and also notes how various styles of necktie signified class and status. I’ve gathered together some contemporaneous Irish images from Dublin, Belfast and Kilkenny photographic studios illustrating the type of attire that Joyce was referring to.

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“Always know a fellow courting: collars and cuffs. Well cocks and lions do the same and stags. Same time might prefer a tie undone or something.” Nausicaa

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“Bloom stood behind the boy with the wreath looking down at his sleek combed hair and at the slender furrowed neck inside his brand new collar.” Hades

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“What caused him irritation in his sitting posture? Inhibitory pressure of collar (size 17) and waistcoat (5 buttons), two articles of clothing superfluous in the costume of mature males and inelastic to alterations of mass by expansion. How was the irritation allayed? He removed his collar, with contained black necktie and collapsible stud, from his neck to a position on the left of the table.” Ithaca

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“He rustled the pleated pages, jerking his chin on his high collar. Barber’s itch. Tight collar he’ll lose his hair. Better leave him the paper and get shut of him.” Lotus-Eaters

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“Master Dignam walked along Nassau street, shifted the pork steaks to his other hand. His collar sprang up again and he tugged it down. The blooming stud was too small for the buttonhole of the shirt, blooming end to it.” Wandering Rocks

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“Dull eye: collar tight on his neck, pressing on a blood vessel or something.” Hades

 

 

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This series of portraits shows members of the rural vocational organisation Muintir na Tíre (People of the Land). Established in 1937, it aimed to counter societal breakdown in rural Ireland. It followed the teaching of the Catholic Church’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which hoped to challenge the threat of communism through strong lay and vocational organisation. Eoin Devereux’s 1991 article on Muintir na Tíre noted that it reflected the strong anti-urbanism which prevailed in Ireland during the period and that persists in certain quarters to this day.

The following quotation from the organisation’s 1941 handbook is very revealing: “Country life is not dull. It is the city life that is cheerless and stupid and vapid, degenerate, futile and foreign with its narrow conventions, its artificiality and its purchased amusements.” Despite the organisation’s antagonism towards the urban, Devereux notes that many of its leaders were urban-based professionals.

This accords with the location of the photographer’s studio. J. Dunne worked from 36 Leinster Road in Rathmines, a suburb of Dublin. These portraits are more informal than official passport photographs and more revealing of the sitters’ personalities. From a sartorial point of view their clothes are typical of the 1950s as tweeds and woollens dominate. Tank tops, wide neck ties, thickly framed horn-rimmed glasses were popular with the men. Some wear the pin of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart (PTAA), an Irish organisation for Catholic teetotallers.

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There is more variety in the women’s outfits. One wears a fitted dress with a fur-ruffled collar while another has a broad-shouldered fake fur coat. Tweed is also popular with the ladies as were knitted tops and twin sets. These are adorned with pearls, brooches and lace collars. All wear badges with the organisation’s logo featuring a cross superimposed on a plough, thus linking the rural and the religious.

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The portraits were most likely taken at a function room or in Dunne’s studio in suburban Rathmines where he operated for a short while from 1954. The series is interesting in that it shows a certain cohort of middle-class, respectable, Irish people of a variety of ages. These portraits were instigated, not by the usual familial ties which cause a visit to the photographic studio, but rather by membership of a vocational organisation.JDunne-Portraits-7JDunne-Portraits-9JDunne-Portraits-10 JDunne-Portraits-11 JDunne-Portraits-12

Further reading: Eoin Devereux, ‘Saving rural Ireland – Muintir na Tíre and its Anti-Urbanism, 1931-1958’ in The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 17, 2 (December 1991): 23-40.

Maurice Curtis, A Challenge to Democracy: Militant Catholicism in Modern Ireland. Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2010.

Maurice Curtis, “Miraculous Meddlers: The Catholic Action Movement.” History Ireland 18, 5 (2010): 34-37.

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These beautifully dressed children are the Burrells: John Percy, Sermonda and Randulphus Clement who lived at Merrion Square, Dublin. Their cartes-de-visite portraits were taken in 1882 by the firm of Louis Werner, 15 Leinster Street, Dublin whose work is featured elsewhere on this blog. The family’s home was on nearby Merrion Square only a few minutes from Werner’s studio.

Randulphus wears a dark velvet dress tunic with shoulder wide lace collars and matching cuffs. John Percy is sporting a Norfolk style suit of knee length breeches with a long single-breasted jacket buttoned and a waist-belt. An advertisement for the Dublin tailors Hyam, 29 and 30 Dame Street from December 1882, reveals the variety of boys’ suits which were available in the city. They sold the following suit styles: Tunic, Marquis, Norkfolk, Leopold, Napier, Oxford, Cambridge, Refer and Diagonals in materials which included serges, tweeds, worsteds, twills, naps and Cheviots.

Like her brothers Sermonda wears leather buttoned boots. Her frilled tiered skirt includes a layer of tartan patterned material and it is worn over scalloped knickerbockers. Her high-necked belted blouse includes a single row of buttons and she wears a ribbon bow at the back of her head. The photographer’s props include a basket and tennis racket and the novel fake swing upon which John Percy sits.

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Their mother Mary (née Parks) from Golagh House, County Monaghan was one of the earliest biographers of the composer Richard Wagner. She travelled across Europe amassing a substantial collection of manuscripts which were given to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (the archive was subsequently sold and dispersed). Their father, Willoughby Merrik Campbell Burrell, 5th Baron Gwydyr, was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. You can see a striking photographic portrait of him, taken by the renowned London studio of Camille Silvy, here.

The children’s maternal grandfather, Sir John Banks, was president of the College of Physicians who also kept a house at 45 Merrion Square. Unfortunately, his medical connections did not prevent the death of young Randulphus who died aged 6 at 11 Merrion Square in 1882, the year in which these photographs were taken.

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Sermonda is pictured above in two gorgeous portraits taken in June 1877 by the studio of M. Allen & Co., 12 Westland Row, Dublin. You can see another example of the photographer’s work here. Her scalloped white cotton or linen dress is adorned with an outsize tartan bow and sash. The ensemble is typical of the restrictive children’s clothing which often mimicked the styles worn by their parents. Indeed in the second image, the little girl has abandoned the sash and bow and is sitting in a more relaxed pose with one of her button boots upon her lap.

Sermonda attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art from an early age. She enrolled at the age of eleven in 1885 and you can see a link to her attendance record (up to1890) here and an example of her work here. Her brother John Percy was to die at the age of 24 having served in the diplomatic corps in Russia. Sermonda married Sir John Henniker-Heaton, the son of a journalist and postal reformer, who was credited with the introduction of the universal penny post. Their daughter compiled her father’s letters into book format and they provide some insights into Sermonda’s personality. She mentions that her parents were frequent visitors to Ireland. Unfortunately, her early home Golagh House, which was built in 1703 was burned down during the Civil War and the rubble used to build the local Catholic Church. Sermonda was to outlive her brother John Percy by 56 years, dying in 1958 at the age of 84. She was buried at Tunbridge Wells, Kent and her grave is pictured here.

One of her adult children, was to disappear in the early 1970s under strange circumstances. John Victor Peregrine Henniker-Heaton went missing from his home in London in 1971, several sightings were reported and some presumed that his disappearance was related to his post-Second World War intelligence activities. In a bizarre twist, his son discovered his father’s skeletal remains in a locked room in their home in 1974. You can read about the unusual case here.

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This photograph shows the Governor’s House at Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin. It is described by Christine Casey as ‘a three bay-block with a central axial corridor, transverse stair and simple plaster ornament,’ and was built between 1845-1848.

It was designed by Richard Cleverton Cuming, Assistant Surveyor, Royal Engineers, Ordnance Civil Branch, Dublin Castle. A watercolour of the house by Herbert Crompton Herries ca. 1870, showing the gardens and the Wellington Monument in the distance, was recently auctioned in Dublin.

This photograph shows the governor, his family and their uniformed staff standing outside the ivy-covered building. I reckon that the photograph was taken between 1890 and 1910. One of the governors during this period was George Alfred Penrhys Evans who is listed in the 1901 census. The household included the governor, his wife Cecelia Cameka Evans, their one-year-old daughter Audrey Fortesine and four female servants.

The firm of Guthrie took this photograph and their studio was located at nearby Parkgate Street. The Guthrie brothers were born in China and South Africa, however, their mother hailed from County Fermanagh. They describe themselves on the 1911 census as ‘Photographic Artists’ and I have written about their work in a previous post which you can read here.

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The above photograph was sold along with the image of Governor’s House. Though I can’t be sure that it is the interior of the Arbour Hill house, its atmospheric clutter, decorated with a large number of prints and photographic portraits, is similar to a bedroom of the period.

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This pair of Northern Irish studio portraits feature two tightly laced ladies whose cinched-in waists are accentuated by belts or corsets worn as outwear. The photograph by J. Glass dates from the 1890s and shows a woman wearing an unusual leather laced belt with an attachment that looks like a telephone cord! The verso of this carte-de-visite incorporates a design which was registered by Marion and Co. in 1894. The woman’s husband wears a Union flag, demonstrating his political affiliation and loyalist leanings.

The photograph from Belfast is very similar to another image I posted about a few years back. I love her precariously balanced hat which includes a large bow and buckle feature. The high neckline accentuated with a brooch; ruched velvet bodice and puffed Juliet sleeves are typical of the time. Her tight lacing may, in fact, be part of the bodice of her dress rather than a separate guêpière or waist cincher. Whilst researching this post, I came across many phrases to describe a variety of exterior corsets, for example, corselets, Swiss waists, waspies, waist cinchers and guêpière. Fortunately, The Dreamstress site had an excellent post which clarifies the difference between some of them and which you can read here.

The firm of McBride and Co., 3 High Street, Belfast, were (see W.A. Maguire’s A Century in Focus: Photography and Photographers in the North of Ireland, 1839-1939) at this location between 1894-1901. This dates both photographs to a similar time period and indeed the women’s silhouettes are remarkably alike.

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I have posted photographs of dogs and their owners taken in Irish studios before and thought that this pair were a nice addition to the series. They were taken by two very different studios: the Wynne business was based in the small town of Castlebar, County Mayo whilst the Werner family had several fashionable locations in Dublin’s city centre.

Louis Werner (1825-1901) came to Ireland from Alsace in the mid-nineteenth century and was originally engaged as a portrait painter. He had switched to photography by the 1860s and I’ve featured several examples of his work elsewhere on the blog. The business was eventually taken over by his his son, Alfred who also exhibited his pictoralist photography internationally at the Chicago World Fair in 1893; the 3rd Exposition d’art photographique, 1896, Paris and the American Institute Photographic Salon, New York, 1899. He favoured the platinotype or platinum print which gives a great tonal range. I love this portrait of two Dublin sisters and their small terrier dog. The girls’ flowing hair is shown beautifully and I reckon, their matching outfits date the photograph to the 1900s.

The earlier carte-de-visite by Wynne’s is great fun. The dog and owner are sporting a similar shaggy hairstyle and the photograph is full of great detail from the woman’s beautiful lace collar worn with a crucifix necklace to the velvet embroidered tablecloth. The National Photographic Archive have an amazing photograph of Thomas J. Wynne advertising his business ca.1880 in which you can zoom in on the details of the products he was selling. By 1901, the family also had branches of their photographic business in Tipperary Town and Loughrea, County Galway, the latter being run by 34 year-old Delia Wynne.

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This photographic souvenir of the Students’ Union Fête at Queen’s College, Belfast was produced by the well-known photographer Abernethy. The 1894 fête/fair was organised to raise funds for a new building and was a spectacular event. Its various attractions and exhibits are outlined in detail in an accompanying guide called The Book of the Fair which was published by Olley & Co. It provides a fascinating insight into the commercial and social life of the city in the late nineteenth century.

The stalls were run by students and the wives and daughters of local aristocracy and merchants. George Morrow & Son provided the decoration for part of a spectacle known as Pomona’s Palace which featured an Enchanted Forest and the Realm of the Ice King! Stallholders adopted various costumes and these were outlined in detail in the guide. The Art stall attendants were dressed in “the style of Kate Greenaway.” Medical students wore a skull and crossbones motif. The women at stall No. 7 entitled ‘The Snowdrift’ wore “white crepon dresses, white white silk fichus, white picture hats with plumes, and powdered hair.”

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The photographic stall was run by the city’s foremost commercial photographic firms including Allison & Allison, Hembry, Kilpatrick, Nielsen and Reid Brothers. A photographic studio was constructed on the grounds of the college which was sponsored by James Wilson and guaranteed that “sitters will receive finished proofs within a few hours.” In addition to cabinet photographs the photographers offered ‘Midget’ photographs like the one featured above. I was able to ascertain that this portrait was taken by Abernethy on either Friday 26th of May or Saturday the 27th. Abernethy advertised elsewhere in the guide boasting that he had two premises: one at High Street, Belfast and a Printing and Finishing works at Bloomfield stating that “work finished in the suburbs is free from fog and smoke, which often spoil photographs finished in the city.”

The other advertisements in the guide give a real flavour of the city’s commercial life and included: Dunville & Co. Limited, Royal Irish Distilleries, Belfast who claimed to be the largest holders of whiskey in the world; The Franklin Steam Laundry, Belfast to whom one could send dirty linen by train; Anderson Brothers, 12 Royal Avenue, Belfast who specialised in re-covering umbrellas and another advertisement offered the ‘Martlet’ brand of non-alcoholic Pilsener for “advocates of temperance.”

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I really like the fact that this portrait can be linked to a specific event and despite its small size, only H 48mm x W 28mm, the image is strong and clear. The surrounding mount depicts the college’s main building designed by Charles Lanyon in a Gothic Revival style. Whoever the sitter was, I hope he enjoyed all the fun of the fair which included a ‘Living Aunt Sally’ under the management of the Arts Students and a performance by the Clifton Banjo Society!

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