Residency - National Gallery of Ireland

  • Artist in Residence at
    The National Gallery of Ireland
     Responding to the 'Circus250 - Art of the Show' exhibition
  • I spent a 4 week residency in The National Gallery of Ireland, responding to 'Circus250: Art of the Show' exhibition formed part of the UK and Ireland-wide celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the original circus. The exhibition showcased the work of well-known Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Mainie Jellett, Mary Swanzy, Harry Kernoff and Martin Gale RHA. Curated by Joanne Drum, National Gallery of Ireland

     It was an incredible honour to represent illustration in the State's national institute of visual art. Back in 2000, when we formed the Illustrators Guild of Ireland, we struggled to get illustration into any gallery what so ever - thankfully a lot has changed in 18 years.

    Prints available for purchase here - thank you :))
  • First day - The National gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square West entrance (Dublin)
  • All that empty space was more than a little daunting :))
  • Rather than doing a finished colour illustration (which was my first thought), I decided to produce a sketch-a-day focusing mainly on vintage circus, sideshow and freak show.
  • The daily sketches were enlarged to A0 size (841 x 1189 mm, 33.1" x 46.8") and hung along the walls of the studio. - one going up each day.

    *** prints available here ***
  • William Hayes and Harry 'Merry Benhaho' Benham toured Australia with their 2 man acrobatics

    Charlie Keith constructed and patented the first portable circus building.
  • Sketchbook - Tattooed Lady - fibre tip pen over pencil

  • Gardens and formed the 'Circus Suffrage Society". One newspaper report of the time tells of an incensed man bursting into the meeting and dragging both his sister and wife out of the meeting. 
  • sketchbook
  • During the 'open studio' sessions the public could flick through my sketchbooks
  •  Bedouin Arabs - In my imagination, this is what a company of Bedouin Arab acrobats would look like :))

    An 'Alley' is the collective noun for clowns
  • close up of the super large photocopies
  • Jumbo - Proclaimed by Barnum to be the 'Biggest elephant in the world', Jumbo  toured the US in the late 1800's - sadly died in a railcar accident. 
    Both his skeleton and stuffed skin continued to the touring after his death. The Adjective, 'Jumbo'; especially large or powerful, originates from the magnificent beast.

    Lennon and McCartney took the lyrics for "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite" from a Pablo Fanque Circus poster.
  • I just wanted to draw a giraffe in a circus trailer :))

    In 1921 Barnum & Bailey had a travelling show with Bears that Dance. play music and do acrobatics - apparently!?!
  • I ran several workshops for kids, students and professionals in the studio as part of my residency
  • Sketchbook
  • Seven Clowns. The whiteface clown holds the highest status in the clown hierarchy

     Ringmaster's coat 

  • Bengal Tigers - Animal trainer, Van Amburgh, was a favourite of Queen Victoria who commissioned artist Edwin Landseer to paint his portrait with his cats.

    Zip the Pinhead - William Henry Johnson (1857 – 1926) was an American freak show performer famous for his tapered head. Barnum told audiences he was from an African tribe of 'missing links'. He was displayed in a cage, made to wear animal fur where he would grunt and generally act 'uncivilised" - He was actually from New Jersey.
  • We made giant matchbooks using illustration, design and hand lettering 
  • William F. Cody founded, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West,"in 1883, a circus-like extravaganza that toured the US and Europe for three decades.

     In 2018 Ireland banned the use of wild animals in the circus.

  • Chang & Eng, original Siamese twins and freak show performers. In 1843, the brothers married sisters, Adelaide and Sarah Yates. Between them, Chang and Eng fathered 21 children. Change died after a period of ill health in 1874. Eng died less than three hours later.

    Simpson's Flea Circus - always fascinated with these since my childhood - happy to put my name on one :))

  • It was great to see the walls finally full on my last day in the studio - we had over 400 visitors that day :)))
  • I'd like to thank all the staff at the National Gallery for all their help, support and encouragement over the 4 weeks - a truly memorable experience :))
  • Prints available for purchase here - thank you :))
  • You can also follow my work on TwitterInstagram or at SteveSimpson.com

    Thank You :)))