Visual Arts in Offaly
Cultural History, Book of Durrow, Famous Painting/Sculpture and Art Galleries.

County Offaly, Leinster Province,
Republic of Ireland.

Note: For a brief guide to Celtic culture
including the early metalworks of the
Celts, see: Celtic Art. For information
about the two earliest styles, which
influenced so many Irish craftsmen
during the golden age of the early Christian era in Ireland, see: Hallstatt
(800-450) and La Tene (450-50 BCE)

Visual Arts in County Offaly

Located in the Republic of Ireland in the province of Leinster, County Offaly (Uibh Fhaili) is bordered by Counties Westmeath, Kildare, Laois and Tipperary, among other counties. Its capital is Tullamore and it has a population of 63,663.

Early Visual Art

County Offaly, along with County Derry, County Antrim, County Sligo, the Shannon estuary and areas of Munster was one of the original settlement areas for post-glacial age immigrants from Scotland which appeared in Ireland during the Stone Age around 7500 BCE. These primitive hunter-gatherers created no art, or real crafts, and it wasn't until the golden era of monastic Irish art during the Medieval era that Offaly became active as a cultural centre. This occurred in the great monasteries at Clonmacnois, Durrow, and Kinnitty, where scribes and artist-monks and metalworkers created several of the outstanding illuminated manuscripts in the history of Irish art.

Book of Durrow (Fragment)
One of the great treasures of
Irish art of the early Middle Ages.

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

Book of Durrow Illuminated Gospel Text

The most famous Offaly artwork is the Book of Durrow, created about 650. This magnificent early Christian illuminated manuscript was produced at Durrow Abbey and represents the earliest surviving illuminated biblical text of the Hiberno-Saxon Insular Art tradition. Measuring 10 inches by 9 inches, it is written on vellum and runs to about 250 folios or pages. It features the four Gospels of the New Testament, as well as six surviving pages devoted exclusively to decoration. It now resides at Trinity College, Dublin.

High Cross Sculpture

Celtic High Cross sculptures represent one of ireland's most celebrated contributions to Western sculpture. County Offaly hosts three such crosses, at the sites of monasteries at Durrow, Clonmacnois, and Kinnitty. The Durrow Cross stands 12-feet high and its iconography includes a sculpture of Christ at the Last Judgement, as well as reliefs showing Christ flanked by angels with St Peter and St Paul, and other Old Testament scenes.

Famous Artists

Renowned Irish artists born in Offaly include: Mark O'Neill, (Contemporary Painter and Illustrator); Emma Barone (Shoe Paintings) and Thomas Frye, (Engraver and Portraitist in Oils and Pastels).

Art Centres and Galleries

There are several art venues in County Offaly, including: Belmont Mill Artists Studios, Belmont (090-6457598); and Birr Theatre and Arts Centre, Birr (0509-22911).

• For more about Irish culture, see: Ireland Visual Arts.
• For more about the historical heritage of the province of Leinster, see: Homepage.
• For a list of the top living painters in Ireland, see: Best Irish Artists/Painters.
• For details of art venues in the 32 counties, see: Irish Art Galleries.

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