01 Marine Painting, Maurice MacGonigal’s CURRACHS FISHING – With Footnotes, #348

Maurice MacGonigal, PPRHA HRA HRSA (1900-1979)

Oil on panel
h:11.50 w:15in
Private collection

A currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched, though now canvas is more usual. It is sometimes anglicised as “curragh”.

The currach has traditionally been both a sea boat and a vessel for inland waters. The River currach was especially well known for its shallow-draft and maneuverability. These currach were common on the rivers of South Wales, and were often referred to as Boyne currach. However, when Ireland declared the netting of salmon and other freshwater fish illegal in 1948, its once common appearance quickly dwindled. More on a currachMaurice MacGonigal was apprenticed to his uncle Joshua Clarke’s glass studio in his hometown of Dublin at the age of fifteen. Politically active in his youth, he joined the first Na Fianna Éireann in 1917, being interned first in Kilmainhal Gaol and then Ballykinlar Camp, Co. Down. When released from internment in 1921, MacGonigal returned to the Clarke studio before he won a scholarship to the Metropolitan School of Art where he studied painting under Sean Keating, Patrick Touhy and James Sinton Sleator. He subsequently taught at the school for over thirty years (later the National College of Art) and became professor of painting. 

MacGonigal’s association with the RHA began in 1924, and he exhibited annually, being elected a full member of in 1933. He succeeded his former tutor Sean Keating as president of the academy in 1962, retaining the position until two years before his death. As well as exhibiting at the RHA he showed regularly at the Dawson and Taylor Galleries, and in 1991 a posthumous retrospective was held at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

MacGonigal was known not only for his painting but also his set designs for the Abbey Theatre, book illustrations, posters for the Irish Army and a mural he produced in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. His works can be found the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane, Crawford Gallery and Ulster Museum. More on Maurice MacGonigal

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