Painting & Sculpture

Painting & Sculpture


An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store – Daniel MacDonald

Painted and exhibited in 1847 by Cork artist Daniel MacDonald, this work depicting a family discovering their potato crop has failed is considered to be one of the only known contemporaneous paintings of the Great Famine. The sense of dread shown by the anguished family members as the threat of hunger looms is echoed in the growing gloom in the background.

A subsequent work painted c.1850, ‘The Village Funeral – An Irish Family by a Graveside during the Great Famine’, also evokes the bleak prospects and sense of resigned despair facing families at this time with a murkier and more indistinct use of colour. This painting is held in the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, along with a number of works by MacDonald.


Dublin Famine Memorial – Rowan Gillespie

This Memorial sculpture, simply titled ‘Famine’, was created by Rowan Gillespie and unveiled in 1997 on Custom House Quay in Dublin’s Docklands where many of those fleeing Ireland during the Great Famine would have departed. The sculpture consists of several life-sized figures in movement, in various states of emaciation and despair as they point down the quay away from the city and toward a new life, and an escape from hunger.


Kindred Spirits Sculpture – Alex Pentak

During the Great Famine, aid arrived to Ireland from a range of sources across the world. One notable example was of the Choctaw Nation, who raised $170 of their own money, equivalent to thousands of dollars today, to supply food for starving Irish people. In 2015, a monument entitled Kindred Spirits was installed in Bailick Park, Midleton, Co. Cork as a tribute to the Choctaw Native American’s charity during the Great Famine. The monument was created by Alex Pentak with assistance from students of the Crawford College of Art and Design and features nine giant stainless steel feathers, shaped into an empty bowl.


Famine Memorial at Murrisk, Co. Mayo

The Famine Memorial at Murrisk, at the foot of Croagh Patrick is a striking memorial to those that died as a result of the Great Famine. The bronze monument of a ‘coffin ship’, the name subsequently given to the ships carrying emigrants out of Ireland during the famine, was designed by Dublin artist John Behan. The rigging of ship is depicted as a number of interconnecting skeletons, serving as a stark reminder of all that died. The monument was unveiled on 20 July 1997 by President Mary Robinson.