Sunday, 25 February 2018

Archaeology & The Art of the Ancestors.

Sketches of carvings within Brú na Bóinne by George Victor Du Noyer.

As an artist I am constantly inspired by the land of Ireland, her sacred sites and her people.

Cauldron detail from MÓR-RÍOGHAIN

For many years standing stones, cairns, rock art and archaeological finds have crept 
into my paintings.

Passage stone detail from AN CAILLEACH

Sometimes a single carving can inspire a larger painting.

Drawing of an antlered deer carving found by Eugene Conwell on a bone flake 
from Cairn H, Loughcrew.

Sketch, part of a new painting, 'Stone, Antler & Bone'.

With each view of these special places my respect for the skills of the ancient people of Ireland grows.

Carvings inside Cairn T, Loughcrew highlighted by the sun at Autumn Equinox.
More about this painting - AN CAILLEACH

Over centuries sites change, stones are taken for building or for private collections, finds removed to museums and carvings weathered or covered by lichen.

Lichen on a passage stone in the Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara.

However, the meticulous recording by past generations of artists and archaeologists has left us with beautiful representations of the Art of the Ancestors.

Dublin born George Victor Du Noyer, 1817 – 1869.

George Victor Du Noyer, an Irish painter, geologist and antiquarian, was commissioned over several years by the Irish Ordnance Survey and the Geological Survey of Ireland to realistically illustrate many sites across the island. 

Du Noyer worked in watercolour and pencil and his sketches are works of art. 

Sketches of Cairns T and L, Loughcrew by George Victor Du Noyer.

Image from Durrus History

His legacy is a series of images as fresh today as they were in the 1800’s. 

Du Noyer’s sketches can be seen HERE

Around the same period J.J.A. Worsee, a Danish archaeologist, was commissioned by 
King Christian VIII of Denmark to record ‘Viking-age antiquities and monuments of Scandinavian character’ 
during his stay in Dublin. 

Illustration by James Plunket from 
‘An Account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland’. 

Worsee assigned James Plunket to prepare a series of watercolours showing artefacts in the collections of the Royal Irish Academy. These became known as The Plunket Watercolours or The Worsaae Drawings.

Now housed in the National Museum of Denmark, they consist of twelve large drawings depicting objects arranged by type and period. 
Each artefact, from the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and later is drawn to full scale, beautifully coloured, with great attention to detail.

As well as their artistic value the Plunket Watercolours record the provenance 
of some early finds of The RIA’s collection of Irish antiquities.

Plunket’s watercolours can be viewed HERE

In more modern times the work of the Irish-American graphic artist, Martin Brennan, 
not only recorded ancient art but challenged the way in which people viewed Ireland’s monuments. 

Images © Martin Brennan.

Together with his friends, Brennan observed and documented evidence showing that the function of the great passage tombs, such as Newgrange and Loughcrew, were not only burial mounds but were also used as astronomical observatories over 5,000 years ago.

Kerb stone 51 at Dowth, known as the ‘Stone of the Seven Suns’, © Martine Brennan.

His clear, clean illustrations, focussing on the carvings rather than the textures, provide us with an inventory of Ireland’s Megalithic Art as well as possible insights into the motivation of the ancestors.

Brennan’s book 'The Stars and the Stones', republished as
‘The Stones of Time’ can be ordered HERE

Today cameras and computers have replaced sketch books and pencils but recording the beauty and intricacy of these carvings and sacred places continues.

Stone 52 at the rear of Newgrange © Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland.

Photographers, such as Anthony Murphy, keep the tradition of the antiquarian and the art of the ancestors alive for future generations.

The ceiling stone in the end recess of Cairn T, Loughcrew 
© Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland.

Visit Mythical Ireland HERE

Long may they continue to inspire us!