Art History · Celtic and Irish Art · Decorative Arts · Spotlight on Artists

Art O’Murnaghan and the Book of Resurrection

Photograph by Kelly King (kellyking0.blogspot.com).

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned several times before, I am a big fan of medieval illuminated manuscripts. I’ve always found it a bit sad that the tradition has very little place in the modern world, which is why I was quite intrigued to read about this manuscript in a book about Celtic art. I’ve recently decided to start explore my (mostly lost) Irish heritage through art, so look for more posts about Irish and Celtic art in the near future. In the meantime, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Photograph by Kelly King (kellyking0.blogspot.com).

The Leabhar na hAiséirghe, or Book of Resurrection, is an unfinished Celtic Revival manuscript intended to be a memorial for those who died in the Irish struggle for independence, specifically the Easter Rising of 1916. It was the work of Irish artist Art O’Murnaghan (1875-1953). O’Murnaghan worked on the manuscript from the early 1920s until the end of his life, with some interruptions, but had only completed 26 pages before his death. They are now on display in the National Museum of Ireland’s permanent exhibition on The Easter Rising: Understanding 1916.

Photograph by Kelly King (kellyking0.blogspot.com).

The Leabhar na hAiséirghe was made with traditional materials and methods and utilizing the traditional Celtic stylistic vocabulary. It would not look out of place next to the Book of Kells or the Book of Durrow, yet it is a completely original, modern work of O’Murnaghan’s own creation.

Photograph by Kelly King (kellyking0.blogspot.com).

According to scholars Lloyd and Jennifer Laing, “O’Murnaghan was the last ‘Celtic’ artist who actually understood his models and was able to ‘think’ in their vocabulary. […] He did not copy the ancient models, he assimilated them in a new style, without artificiality and in excellent taste.” (Laing & Laing 207).

Sources:

Laing, Lloyd and Jennifer Laing. Celtic Britain and Ireland Art and Society. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Collins, Liam. “Great Celtic manuscripts resurrected after lost years”. Independent.ie. Nov. 26, 2012.

The Easter Rising: Understanding 1916 at the National Museum of Ireland, Exhibition details.

kellyking0.blogspot.com – the source of these wonderful photos of the Book of Resurrection. Check out the rest of her great blog as well.

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