Kerry Visual Arts
Cultural History, Early Monastic Culture, Famous Painting/Sculpture and Art Venues.

County Kerry, Munster Province
Republic of Ireland.

Note: For the history of Celtic culture
and examples of ancient metalwork
created by the first Celts, see:
Celtic Art. For a guide to the earliest
styles, which influenced so many
Irish draughtsmen and metalworkers
during the renaissance of the early
Christian era, see: Hallstatt (800-450)
and La Tene (c.450-50 BCE).

For a list of buildings/sites of
historical, architectural or
artistic significance, see:
Architectural Monuments Ireland and
Archeological Monuments Ireland.

Visual Arts in County Kerry

Lying north-west of County Cork, the coastal county of Kerry (Ciarrai) is situated in the province of Munster and has a population of 136,000. The county town is Tralee, home of the annual Rose of Tralee Festival. County Kerry is famous for its lakes and natural scenery, including Macgillicuddy's Reeks - the highest mountains in Ireland - the Ring of Kerry on the Dingle Peninsula, and the town of Killarney. Along its Atlantic coastline, are a number of islands, including the famous Skelligs (rocks). Like Galway and Donegal, County Kerry contains several Gaeltacht areas (in the Dingle and the Iveragh Peninsulas) where Irish is the first language.

Early Visual Arts and Culture

A vital component of early Irish art during the Bronze Age, was the copper metal mined in Kerry in the period (c.2500-1800 BCE). Bronze allowed Irish craftsmen to create a wide variety of beautiful and ornate items. Irish visual art is generally regarded as beginning with neolithic art - as at Newgrange - followed by Bronze Age ornamental artifacts. During the late Iron Age (400 BCE - 100 CE) bronze was an important metal used in the creation of numerous masterpieces of artistic Celtic metalwork, such as the Broighter Collar, the Petrie Crown and the bronze trumpet from Loughnashade, County Armagh.


Early Monastic Culture

County Kerry's other connections with the early history of Irish art and architecture stem from its early monastic settlements, such as the medieval monastery - now a World Heritage Site - on Skellig Michael.

The Skellig Heritage Centre is located on Valentia Island. Another example of Kerry monastic culture is the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula, with its Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne (Dingle Peninsula Heritage Exhibition) exhibiting displays of the culture, archaeology and history of the area. During the early centuries of the Christian era, the Church was a key patron of Irish arts (illuminated manuscripts and other religious treasures) and Western cultural scholarship.

Famous Artists

County Kerry's renowned Irish artists include: Pauline Bewick, (Contemporary Watercolours); Michael Flaherty, (Contemporary Landscapes); Charles Harper, (Contemporary Artist); Liam O'Neill, (Contemporary Outdoor Scenes); Maria Simmonds-Gooding, (Landscapes); Julie Beckett (Impressionist painter of flowers and landscapes), Mieke Vanmechelen (expressionist painter).

Art Galleries

Kerry has a wide range of art gallery venues and arts spaces displaying high quality Irish painting and Irish sculpture. These include: Kenmare Art Gallery (064-42999), Arkhangel Art Gallery Listowel (068 23537), Greenlane Gallery Dingle (066-915-2047), Killarney Art Centre (064-34628), Mill Cove Gallery Kenmare (064-40717); Bin Ban Gallery, Tralee (066-7122520); Blue Stone Gallery, Kenmare (064-40860); Bluebell Gallery, Caherdaniel (066-9475938); Brushwood Studio Gallery, Sneem (064-45108); Carl's Gallery, Killarney (064-41370); Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, Ballinskelligs (066-947 9297); Crannog Gallery, Dingle (066-9151666); Frank Lewis Gallery, Killarney (064-31108); Fuchsia Cottage Ceramics, Cahirciveen (066-9473456); Gallery One, Cahirciveen (066-9472346); Jane Hilliard Gallery, Tralee S.C. (066-7180055); McBride Gallery, Killarney (064-71483); McCarthy Dermot Studio and Art Gallery, Killarney (064-39995); Siamsa Tíre Theatre, Tralee (066-7123055); Sneem Art Studio, West Sneem (064-45576); St. John's Theatre and Arts Centre, Listowel (068-22566); The Snuggie Gallery, Tralee (087-4144306); Wellspring Art Gallery, Tralee (066-7121218).

In addition, there are numerous arts festivals and exhibitions throughout County Kerry, especially during the summer months.

Heritage, Cultural Centres and Arts Museums in Co Kerry

Blasket Centre
This centre commemorates the heritage of the nearby Blasket Islands. The islands had a strong cultural tradition, reflected in the creation of various literary masterpieces in Irish and a distinctive way of life which endured until the last of the islanders abandoned their homes on Great Blasket Island in 1953. The new centre describes in detail the old island way of life, its arts, crafts, social and literary traditions.

Previously the home of Daniel O'Connell, the "Liberator" responsible for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland in the 19th century, Derrynane is now a cultural centre whose exhibits include furniture, fine art paintings, ceramics, objets d'art and other mementoes relating to O'Connell.

Kenmare Heritage Centre
This recounts numerous facets of local history, including the establishment of the town and its mine by Sir William Petty in 1670. The centre also details the effect of the Famine in the late 1840s on the town and displays examples of lace textile designs once made by the local nuns. A separate display of textile art is located on the upper floor.

Muckross House
This Elizabethan-style mansion, constructed in the early 1840s, retains much of its original interior design and architecture. Craft skills are still practised here, including bookbinding, printmaking, wood-carving, harness-making, shoemaking, basketry, stonecutting, ceramic pottery and weaving. Outside, are the three working farms that make up Muckross Traditional Farms and are designed to show the farming traditions of the 1930s.

• For a list of the top living painters in Ireland, see: Best Irish Artists/Painters.
• For details of fine arts venues in Ireland, see: Irish Art Galleries.
• For more about Irish culture, see: Ireland Visual Arts.
• For more about the historical heritage of the province of Munster, see: Homepage.

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