Mick O'Dea on his painting 'Attention'

A note from Mick O'Dea about his painting 'Attention', the promotional image for DruidO'Casey

18 May 2023

The celebrated Irish artist Mick O'Dea has kindly given us permission to use his painting 'Attention' as the promotional image for DruidO'Casey: Sean O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy. Here's a note by Mick O'Dea discussing the painting and its inspiration.

The painting was exhibited in ‘Trouble’, the second exhibition in a trilogy of exhibitions at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery Dublin in 2012. The first exhibition was ‘Black and Tan’ (2010) and the final exhibition was ’The Split’ (2014).

These exhibitions covered the War of Independence and the Civil War. I have a large source of images, primarily photographs accumulated from that period, which I have been collecting all my life, largely from books, archives and the internet.

'Attention' is based on a photograph from the Jack Leonard Collection. Jack was based in County Mayo and I was attracted to this image as it showed a group of boys drawn to attention in a military manner.

The uniforms are uniform, as are the replica guns, probably made from wood and tin. They have a commanding ‘officer’ complete with what looks like a map case and swagger stick!

In what was a highly militarised and policed society within the British Empire, I was fascinated to see an image of the ‘contras’, those who for instance were not members of Baden Powell’s Boy Scouts or The Boys Brigade.

They are probably the sons of members of the Irish Volunteers who had the means to outfit them accordingly.

In my exhibition 'Black and Tan' from 2010, I showed a group of Dublin street urchins in a similar formation, however there was no uniformity in dress or presentation - on the contrary, they were a ragtag collection in comparison.

I have set the figures off in their raw cotton uniforms against a range of lush greens, with some warmth being delivered by flesh tones and rifle butts.

I assume that the photograph was taken sometime prior to or during the First World War. I endeavoured to make a beautiful painting that an audience could contemplate in a variety ways.

Mick O'Dea

Mick O'Dea is a painter and sculptor living and working in Ireland.

He is a Member of Aosdána, an Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy, a Fellow of the Anatomical Society, Chairman of the Stamp Design Advisory Committee for An Post, a Board Member of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, a Past President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and a Past Member of the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland.

His work is included in a number of public and corporate collections including: The National Gallery of Ireland; The Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork; The Royal Hibernian Academy; The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; Trinity College Dublin; Dublin City University; The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; and Leinster House.

In addition, Mick's work is featured in many private collections across Europe, the United States and Asia; and he has exhibited extensively in Ireland and abroad.