Flight of the Earls
by John Behan R.H.A
The sculpture depicts the Flight of the Earls about to embark on a ship. The Flight of the Earls from Rathmullan (Portnamurry), Co. Donegal followed by the Plantation of Ulster, signifies a defining moment in the history of Gaelic Ireland and a pivotal moment in Irish history, the ramifications of which remain to the present day.
Flight of the Earls, 2007
Rathmullan and District Local History Society (funded by Independent News Media Services through the generosity of Sir Anthony O'Reilly) in partnership with Donegal County Council Public Art Program. The sculpture is lifesize, is made from bronze and is located in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.
Born in Dublin in 1938 and now living and working near Galway city where he continues to vary his style of expression, John Behan is firmly established as a sculptor of international stature. After an apprenticeship in metal work and welding, the foundations for Behan's success were laid in the sixties, when he trained in London and Oslo and began to exhibit widely. But he also had a wider artistic vision, which saw him challenge the elitism of the art establishment and seek to popularise art. He was a founder member of the New Artists' group in 1962 and Dublin's innovative Project Art Centre in Dublin in 1967 and in 1970 established the Dublin Art Foundry with Peter O’ Brien.
In 1972 Behan was awarded The Gold Medal at the Oireachtas Exhibition and in 1973 was selected as a member of the Arts Council. Behan was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1973, a member of Aosdana in 1978 and elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1989. In 2000 Behan was conferred Doctor of Literature by National University of Ireland, Galway, was awarded the ESB Silver Medal RHA 2005 and the IB Jorgensen Award 2006. Behan has had solo shows at the Hallward Gallery, Dublin, Ashford Gallery RHA, Gordon Gallery, Derry, Taylor Gallery, Dublin, Cork Art Society, Kenny’s Art Gallery, Galway, Bell Gallery, Belfast, Octagon Gallery, Belfast, Sean Desmond Gallery, New York and The Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Behans commissions include ‘Circle of Birds’, The Hospice, Harolds Cross, Dublin, 2006, ‘Golden Birds’, Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin, 2003, Equality Emerging, Salmon Weir, Galway, 2001 ‘Arrival’, UN Plaza, New York, 2000 ‘Twin Spires’, NUI, Galway 1999 and ‘Famine Ship’, Murrisk, Westport, Co. Mayo 1997.
Behans work is held in the Public Collections of The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork, The National Gallery of Ireland, The Arts Council Collection and The Irish Club London.
Celebrated for his early bull sculptures - described by playwright Brian Friel as 'enormously solid artefacts, 4-square on the earth, confident, assured, executed to a point of absolute completion' - Behan's style is still evolving and growing. In a general sense he can be credited with playing a major part in the development of sculpture in Ireland over the last forty years.
A film documentary of John Behan's work entitled 'Famine Ship' was broadcast in Ireland and the U.K. in 1999 and is dis- tributed in North America by The Cinema Guild Inc. and the rest of the world by Network Television. The poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney has said of the artist: "There is something psychologically salubrious about John Behan. It is as if you are encountering what the Upanishads call the ancient self, something previous to an underlying individual charac- ter, some kind of psychic bedrock." For further information www.thekennygallery.ie/artists/behanjohn/
Artist John Behan R.H.A has been awarded the Flight of the Earls: Imeacht na nIarlaí Sculptural Commission by Rathmullan and District Local History Society (funded by Independent News Media Services through the generosity of Sir Anthony O'Reilly) in partnership with Donegal County Council Public Art Program. The sculpture will be installed and unveiled as part of the Flight of the Earls 400 year anniversary commemorations on Friday 14th September 2007at 3pm in Rathmullan and all are welcome to attend. For further details on the program of events see www.flightoftheearls.ie
The Flight of the Earls from Rathmullan (Portnamurry), Co. Donegal followed by the Plantation of Ulster, signifies a defining moment in the history of Gaelic Ireland and a pivotal moment in Irish history, the ramifications of which remain to the present day.
The 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls in 2007, which will be commemorated internationally, is an opportunity to increase awareness and promote understanding of this most significant crossroads in Irish history.
Rathmullan in County Donegal, the place from which three Irish chieftains with their families and followers departed on board a sailing ship, will be a major focus for events in 2007. Commemorations throughout County Donegal, Ulster, Ireland and Continental Europe are being planned, culminating in the Flight of the Earls Week in Rathmullan, in September 2007.
The commissioned bronze work is for the new amenity area adjacent to the pier in Rathmullan. The lifesize piece is wonderfully dynamic and strong and although of a particular moment, it invites the viewer to reflect the powerful role of the chieftain in Gaelic society and Gaelic culture and to reflect on and consider the impact of their departure. The proposed sculpture depicts the Flight of the Earls about to embark on a ship. The three cloaked figures symbolize the three chieftains, O'Neill, O'Donnell and Maguire bidding farewell to their people. The figures on the plinth represent Ulster: the kneeling figure is meant to be Donegal, where the sculpture is to be located in Rathmullan.
John Behan, born 1938 is one of Ireland’s strongest sculptural artists. His commissions include ‘Famine Ship’ Murrisk, Wesport, Co. Mayo and ‘Arrival’, UN Plaza, New York and has work in both the Hugh Lane Gallery Collection, Dublin and The National Gallery of Ireland.