Donated by the artist, 1946
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought artists to Ireland who were fleeing war-torn Europe. Rolli Roland, from neutral Switzerland, came here in the 1940s and was living in Baggot Street in Dublin in 1943 when a review of his solo exhibition at the Contemporary Picture Galleries suggests that he was a young artist, for whom the reviewer predicts a lively and sympathetic career (Irish Times, 26/5/1943). He was probably still in Ireland in 1948 when he showed work at the Tuam Art Club. Roland exhibited at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (1944, 1947) the RHA (1944–45), the Dublin Sketching Club (1943–44), the Oireachtas (1945) and in a number of provincial exhibitions, notably Clonmel (STFAC, 1944/5), Waterford and Limerick in the 1940s, as well as showing in Basel and in London. He held solo exhibitions in such Dublin venues as the Contemporary Picture Galleries (1943–44), The Country Shop (1945), the Victor Waddington Galleries (1945–46), and, following his departure from Ireland, at Dunster’s Art Gallery, Lyme Regis, UK which showed recent work by him in November 1955.The critic, “AP”, in the Irish Times, (17/4/1945) praised Roland for his fresh approach and said, ‘If there is a criticism to make, it is that, brilliant though his pictures are sometimes, they seem to lack depth of feeling”. His choice of subjects reveals a genuine interest in the lot of the poor and the working classes particularly in the west of Ireland. This is indicated by his use of Irish language titles, such as An Gaol is Gáire shown at the Oireachtas in 1945. Rolli Roland is best known for his landscape and city scenes but he was also interested in subject pictures that suggest a literary or narrative source. His entry to the 1944 Irish Exhibition of Living Art was another subject picture, The Martyr. This, Our City was exhibited in a solo exhibition of Roland’s work at the Contemporary Picture Galleries and given special mention by an anonymous reviewer (Irish Times, 26/2/1944), who praised Roland as a colourist. Roland clearly thought highly of the work himself since he placed the unusually high price of £42 on it, far above the figures of £8–12 that he normally charged. This, Our City, with its drab interior and the theatrical but sombre, detached body language of the central figures, suggests the hardship of life in Dublin’s decaying Georgian houses, and perhaps the pending demise of the figure in the humble bed on the right. The rhetorical title further suggests a sense of outrage that such despair should be a feature of a civilised, modern city.