Signed ‘Lamb’, lower left Art Gallery collection pre-1974

Charles Lamb RHA, RUA (1893–1964)
Oil on canvas, 59 X 72
NGI; Ulster Museum; Crawford Art Gallery; DCGHL; NUI; Armagh County Museum; Butler Gallery; Highlanes; Waterford Municipal Art Collection.
Marie Bourke, ‘Charles Lamb and National Identity’, History Ireland, Vol. VIII, No 1, 2000, pp 30 -34; Albert Power, Charles Lamb Memorial exhibition. catalogue essay, Dublin 1969.
No items found.
No items found.

Charles Vincent Lamb was born and educated in Portadown until a scholarship in 1917 brought him to the DMSA. Lamb managed to avoid the post 1916 Rising ferment that permeated the school, but, encouraged by the writer Padraic Ó Conaire, he became interested in the people, the rituals and the landscape of Connemara and made it his mission ‘to represent those who are the seed, root and branch of this country’ (Power, 1969). He married Katherine Madox Hueffer, daughter of the English writer Ford Madox Ford, and the couple settled in Carraroe, where in addition to painting, they ran a summer painting school from time to time.He exhibited at the RHA (1922–1964) and was shown widely in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles in the 1920s and ‘30s, and in 1938 at the RA, London. Scenes from the West of Ireland were greatly sought after as the Free State sought a defining image of Irishness. Lamb’s work met this need perfectly, while managing to remain distinct from similar themes in the work of Seán Keating (See page ?) and Maurice McGonigal. Lamb is best remembered for his depictions of peasant and fishing families in traditional dress and engaged in routine activities, whether this was knitting, fishing, or dancing. He treated his subjects with great dignity and was particularly good at group scenes but, as demand for these fell away in the 1940s, he concentrated increasingly on small to middle-sized landscapes. A memorial exhibition of Lamb’s work was held at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in 1969.This serene painting of a harbour at evening when the fishermen are tying up their boats is typical of Lamb’s output. The bulk of three Galway hookers weighs down the middle ground of the painting, with their mastheads and ropes silhouetted against the fading light, while a larger fishing trawler is moored behind them. Two currachs are shown up by the light on the water in the foreground. An injection of primary colour is provided by the skirt of the woman who has come to call the men in. Lamb gloried in giving an honest rendering of the lives of a people whose world would change beyond recognition with the coming of mass communications, the decline in the Irish language and the arrival of bigger fishing boats in the 1960s.