IT was entirely appropriate that the Chieftain of the O’Malley Clan, Pearce O’Malley, officiated at the launch last week in the Custom House Studios of a selection of works from the Irish American Cultural Institute’s ‘O’Malley Collection of 20th Century Art’.
Presently on loan in its entirety to the University of Limerick, it symbolises the rich cultural life led by famous Irish Republican, and Mayo man, Ernie O’Malley and his American wife, artist Helen Hooker.
They lived at Burrishoole Lodge, near Newport, from 1938, developing a model farm while raising their family of three children. The couple also compiled an extensive collection of photographs depicting contemporary life in rural Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Pearce O’Malley suggested the exhibition should be renamed ‘The Mayo Collection of World Art Works’. He outlined the background to the romance between O’Malley and Hooker, who was from a wealthy American family. It culminated in their elopement followed by an adventurous journey settling in Mayo.
“This collection on display here is part of a 400-piece collection of art works collected by Helen Hooker and Ernie O’Malley, which includes Irish, British, European, American and oriental art work,” he explained.
Pearce O’Malley also detailed Ernie’s Castlebar roots and Republican legacy, explaining he was on the anti-treaty side during the Civil War. The collection includes works by such acclaimed artists as Evie Hone, Paul Henry, Patrick Hennessy, Anne Yeats, Louis Le Brocquy, Seán O’Sullivan, Robert Burke, and Michael O’Sullivan, as well as several famous American artists.
An accomplished artist herself, Helen Hooker separated from O’Malley but returned to Ireland regularly.
“During her last visits in the 1980s she engaged with the Government to have the 400-piece collection held in Mayo but that wasn’t possible at the time,” Pearce O’Malley said.
MORE The ‘O’Malley Collection of 20th Century Art’ is on show at the Custom House Studios, Westport Quay, until November 28.