Reclining figures in life imitating art

The Times We Lived In: Published: March 4th, 1971. Photograph by Gordon Standing

Is it a meeting? Is it a concert? No, it’s all about contemporary art. Last week’s photo suggested the theme of art imitating life: today’s image inverts the idea.

It pays tribute to Rosc, the landmark series of contemporary art exhibitions which took place – like a World Cup of Art – every four years between 1967 and 1988. The image was taken at a press conference in the Hugh Lane Gallery, then known as the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, to announce details of the 1971 show – which would bring the work of Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko and Rene Magritte to Ireland.

Rosc was an incredibly big deal. In an unusually visionary move the Department of Education enabled schools to take a day out so that Irish kids could get up close and personal with work by such international artists as Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly.

Our photographer, too, was in visionary mode in March 1971. Faced with a phalanx of suits and some half-empty glasses of white wine, he nipped around the back of the speechifying and took his shot from a suitably modernist oblique angle.


As a result, the viewer peers at the scene over the shoulder of the rather magnificent – and enduringly strange – lady who lounges in the foreground. She is Henry Moore's Reclining Figure No 2, part of the permanent collection in Parnell Square and a venerable piece of modern art in herself. As the gallery's website points out, the sculpture "is given tension and vitality by forms such as elbows, knees and pelvis appearing to press outwards, yet it also celebrates the sensuous beauty of the body".

On the other hand, she doesn’t have any eyes. Or ears. Perhaps that’s why the press conference hasn’t exactly made her sit up and take notice. But she does, if you look at her long enough, appear to be just about to nudge the head of the man seated in front of her, with her left knee.

And look at the chap sitting with his back to the pillar, near the top left of the shot; taking a leaf from her book, he’s starting to recline gently leftwards. Life – you might say – imitating art.

These and other 'Irish Times' images can be purchased from: A book, 'The Times We Lived In', with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from and from bookshops, priced at €19.99