The Scoil Éanna Art Gallery
Patrick Pearse had a keen interest in art and wrote some very insightful art criticism in the Gaelic League newspaper, An Claidheamh Soluis. Art played a key role in the life of Scoil Éanna. The boys were surrounded by works of art and the inner hall was transformed into an art gallery. Part of the collection seems to have been made up of engravings, sculptures and casts which belonged to the Pearse family. Patrick Pearse also purchased several pieces of contemporary Irish art, while other works were donated to the school by well-wishers.
Beatrice Moss Elvery Later Lady Glenavy (1881-1970) was an Irish stained-glass artist and painter. She was the second daughter of a Dublin businessman whose family had originated from Spain where they were silk merchants. She was part of the family of Elverys sports goods fame, whose name continues today. Most of her early life was spent in Foxrock where the Beckett’s were near neighbours. Although the Elvery family was relatively prosperous, her mother, who came from less well-off circumstances, was horrified when Beatrice turned down an offer of marriage from an elderly musician saying “He has four hundred pounds a year and a piano”. She attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where William Orpen (1878-1931) taught painting and later used Beatrice as a model. Of his pupil, Orpen wrote that she had “many gifts, much temperament and great ability. Her only fault was that the transmission of her thoughts from her brain to paper or canvas, clay or stained glass became so easy to her that all was said in a few hours.” She remained a friend and correspondent of Orpen until shortly before his death in 1931.
When Sarah Purser (1848-1943) founded her studios An Túr Gloine (‘The Glass Tower’) in 1903, she invited Beatrice Elvery to be one of the designers and her first commission of six windows was installed in the Convent of Mercy, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanage in 1905. Whilst at An Túr Gloine Beatrice provided illustrations for Patrick Pearse’s collection of short-stories, Íosagán agus Scéalta Eile . Of her meeting with him she remarked that Pearse “was a rather bulky, pale, shy young man whose clothes made him look as if he belonged to some religious order”.
Beatrice married Charles Campbell (later 2nd Baron Glenavy) in 1912 and they settled in London, returning to Ireland at the end of the First World War when she then concentrated on painting. The Campbells moved in literary circles and their friends included Katherine Mansfield, D.H. Laurence and George Bernard Shaw. Beatrice’s husband became Secretary to the Department of Industry and Commerce in the Irish Free State from its foundation in 1922 until 1932. Beatrice had three children, one of whom was the journalist and humourist, Patrick Campbell. He was a writer for the Irish Times (using the pseudonym ‘Quidnunc’), and wrote the “Irishman’s Diary” column for many. He was also a regular on BBC radio and television programmes, and is best known for his appearances on the comedy panel show Call my Bluff.
Pearse hung this painting of Íosagán by Beatrice Elvery in the entrance of Cullenswood House when it first opened in 1908. When the school moved to Rathfarnham in 1910 it was once again displayed in the front entrance. The painting depicts Christ as a young boy against the backdrop of the Dublin mountains. His arms are outstretched in premonition of his crucifixion. The figure depicted would have been a similar age to the boys in Scoil Éanna and this painting was intended to portray an ideal for them to aspire to.
Beatrice Elvery’s painting Éire (sometimes referred to as ‘Éire Óg’) was inspired by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory’s one-act play, Cathleen Ní Houlihan. It was purchased for Scoil Éanna by Maud Gonne. Years later a former pupil of the school told Beatrice that the picture had inspired him to try to die for Ireland. She expressed her shock that her ‘picture might, like Helen’s face, launch ships and burn towers!’ (Image reproduced courtesy of Lady Davis-Goff)