New art collection inspired by life and legacy of Charlotte Grace O’Brien

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Vicki Nash and Ann Lenihan, Newcastle West Arts Committee, with artists Pat Keane, Ann Byrne, Ciara Nash and Shauna Kennedy at the Red Door Gallery
A NEW art exhibition in Newcastle West has taken inspiration from the life and legacy of Charlotte Grace O’Brien, a celebrated campaigner for social rights in the 19th century.

A NEW art exhibition in Newcastle West has taken inspiration from the life and legacy of Charlotte Grace O’Brien, a celebrated campaigner for social rights in the 19th century.

Charlotte, who was born in 1845, spent much of her life working to improve the lot of Irish emigrants to Britain and America, particularly young, single women, who had to endure terrible conditions on their crossings and their arrival.

The daughter of West Limerick patriot and leader of the Young Irelander rebellion of 1848, William Smith O’Brien, she was also an accomplished poet and writer who had to endure the loss of her hearing in later life.

A new collection which was recently opened at the Red Door Gallery in Newcastle West has seen twelve female artists take inspiration from the life and achievements of Charlotte. The collection, which has been curated by the Limerick Lady Associates artistic group, features pieces from stonework to oil and watercolour paintings.

Each artist’s collection includes a written reference to an aspect of Charlotte’s life they drew inspiration from, be it her work with lone female emigrants, or her prose about nature, botany and her love of Foynes, where she is buried.

Vicki Nash, chairperson of the Newcastle West Arts Committee which has organised the exhibition, said that Charlotte remains “an inspirational figure” to this day.

Towards the latter part of the 18th century, Charlotte took an active interest in the terrible conditions of Irish emigrants, particularly young women, travelling to Britain and America. In 1882 she opened the O’Brien Emigrant Boarding House in Queenstown (Cobh), and journeyed to Liverpool and New York in order to see first-hand the slum conditions Irish were forced to live in. She lobbied sympathetic politicians and clergy, and was instrumental in opening the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary in Manhattan in 1883. She penned several collections of verse, and in her later years became a supporter of the Gaelic revival. She died in 1909 and was laid to rest in Knockpatrick, overlooking Foynes, where she lived for much of her adult life.

The exhibition is open from 11am to 5pm until this Saturday at the Red Door Gallery.