Ulster Folk & Transport Museum The Art of History Exhibition

The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum is providing a rare opportunity to view some of the most revealing images of early 19th century Ireland by Sampson Towgood Roch. Opening on April 30th, the exhibition “The Art of History: Watercolours of Irish Town Life in the 1820s” will include exquisite watercolours depicting a broad variety of aspects of life.

The image pictured left is of women in a market scene depicting the selling of bread shows three distinct ways of wearing the same type of cloak, something which clearly impacted on Roch.

The following comment is found in a historical document dating from 1834 relating to Waterford: “The wife of every small farmer carries a wheaten loaf back with her from market” (click image to enlarge).
Head of Folk Life & Agriculture for National Museums Northern Ireland Robbie Hannan says the paintings are a fascinating primary source of details about every day town life in Ireland in the 1820s. Images of people at work and at play, transport and crafts provide a deep and accurate insight into what life was like almost 200 years ago.

“This exhibition draws on one of the most significant and yet understated items from the entire Ulster Folk & Transport Museum collection,” says Mr Hannan.

“The watercolours by Roch relating to Waterford and dating from around 1824 are contained in a small leather-bound volume with the remains of a brass clasp – this indicates they were probably painted from sketches made on location.”

Roch enjoyed a long and remarkable artistic career with a flourishing practice in Dublin. While living in Bath he received many lucrative commissions from the aristocracy and royalty which established his reputation.

“This lively and charming exhibition goes on public display for the first time and the images are complemented by objects from the National Museums’ collections similar to those portrayed in the paintings,” says Mr Hannan.

The picture above shows Roch giving us an insight into an interesting aspect of commercial life in the form of a travelling cart for selling provisions. The bell on the hand cart would have been used to attract the attention of prospective clients. Food would have been sold from the cart and the chimney-like box on the top suggests that the cart might have contained hot produce, although it may have been an air vent (click image to enlarge).

The Art of History exhibition will be on display until March 2011.

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