Friday 25 September Culture Night will see the unveiling of a 1958 bronze sculpture by Edward Delaney, donated to the museum by the late Jack Toohey, an avid collector of contemporary art, and his widow Agnes, who will be present at the launch in the Formal Gardens of the Irish Museum of Modern Art
at 5.30pm that evening.
To commemorate her husbands passion as a collector of sculptures, Agnes Toohey made a donation to IMMA of Delaneys Eve with Apple from the couples collection. The work will be on permanent display in the Formal Gardens at IMMA, having undergone a period of restoration, which was kindly funded by the Goethe-Institut with help from the Heritage Council.
The figure of Eve was inspired by the scenes of poverty which Delaney saw in Germany in the 1950s, when he was based there at the Academie der Bildenden Kunst. In a contemporary interview, the artist described the scene near his lodgings in Munich . There was a bench by the side of the street where a few old women sat, tired from long journeys in search of aid, worn and twisted, also, from old age. Every time they raised a hand in a gesture it seemed as if they were imploring the skies for assistance. I wanted to make statues so that he would never forget them and so that other people might see in bronze these symbols of the mystery of agony - and life surviving in spite of agony.
The Goethe-Instituts Dublin director Rolf Stehle feels that "Edward Delaney was ahead of his time when he went to Munich to study and work as an artist, realising the importance of cultural exchange in shaping the world we live in. In this regard, Delaney has lived and practiced the interculturalism that dictates the purpose of the Goethe-Institut too."
On the occasion of a 2004 retrospective of Delaneys bronzes, Peter Murray wrote in the Irish Arts Review that the poverty of Germany made a profound impression on the artist, providing stark images which would reappear in his later work in Ireland . His achievement lay in his ability to unite the instinctive, unpretentious approach of his rural background, where memories of the Great Famine were still alive in the memories of people, with the stricken anxiety evident in post-war Germany culture.
In a similar assessment in the Irish Times, Aidan Dunne connected Delaney to the broad post-war tradition of European figurative sculpture, such as Giacometti, Germaine Richier, Marino Marini and Giacomo Manzu. These artists shared a commitment to figuration, to modelling and casting, and to bronze. In the disillusioned aftermath of a cataclysmic war, some of them looked to existentialist humanism, depicting the troubled, isolated human presence afflicted with all the doubts and anxieties of mid-century. Paradoxically perhaps, an underlying sense of doubt and fragility comes through the intractable, material substance of Delaneys figures, human, animal and mythical. The most robust forms have an awkwardness, a tenderness about them.
His son, Eamon Delaney , who is publishing a book about his fathers work this autumn, entitled Breaking the Mould A Story of Art and Ireland, said; My fathers ambition was to use the breakthrough period of the 60s to revive the best of Celtic art forms with a vigorous European modernism
he wanted to Europeanise Irish art and society, and give flight to the imagination. It has been said of Eve, that although she was inspired by German suffering, and is apparently holding out a bowl, the figure could also be holding an apple, and hence her name and the sense of renewal and rebirth after the destruction of war.
Agnes and Jack Toohey latterly lived at Carraroe, Co Galway . However, the real scene as Agnes describes it, was Dublin as that was where they built their business in the fashion industry. Ascot Models, located near the Guinness Brewery, grew from modest beginnings, with just two employees, to a factory employing 200 people. Agnes herself had trained with a Viennese fashion house after the war. Because of their connection with the Jamess Gate/Kilmainham area, Agnes was very keen to give something back. Jack had the greatest regard for Eddie Delaneys work and knew him in Dublin all those years ago before he moved to Carraroe. We collected a number of works by the artist.
A number of Delaney bronzes will also go under the hammer on 14 October at Adams .
Eve with Apple will be formally unveiled at 5.30pm on Friday 25 September in the Formal Gardens at IMMA.