Centenary of turning point in Irish history to be marked

1922 World Congress of the Irish Race announced the Free State to the world

Numerous events planned for the next couple of months will mark the centenary of the 1922 World Congress of the Irish Race in Paris, the event that announced the Irish Free State to the world.

The Exposition d’Art Irlandais, organised in conjunction with the congress, used culture as a signifier of Ireland’s distinctive character worthy of the independence from the United Kingdom.

The seminal exhibition was held at the fashionable Parisian space Galerie Barbazanges, and launched not just Irish creativity, but the emerging Irish nation on the international stage. With over 100 delegates from 22 countries, including a representative from Java, the congress, which was the brainchild of Irish nationalists in South Africa, ran between January 21st and 28th, 1922. The ambitious fanfare included lectures, concerts and plays, but the focal point was an exhibition of Irish visual arts with works by Jack B Yeats, Harry Clarke, Sean Keating, Sarah Purser, Lily Yeats, Mary Swanzy, John Lavery and Paul Henry.

To remember these events of 100 years ago, a series of exhibitions will be held in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, and will take place in the midwest of the United States, Ireland and Europe .


The Seeing Ireland exhibition at the Trinity Long Room Hub celebrates the 1922 attempt at cultural diplomacy. It has been organised by Trinity College Dublin, along with events co-ordinated by the O'Brien Collection, Chicago, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, the Centre Culturel Irlandais and University of Paris, Sorbonne in Paris. Currently open, it recreates the 1922 art exhibition – which was one of the most important events in Irish art history – in online format, and will host a conference entitled Irish Artifice: Art, Culture and Power in Paris, 1922.

Who we are

The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, in conjunction with the O'Brien Collection is currently holding an exhibition entitled "Who Do We Say We Are? Irish Art 1922/2022" which examines the use of art as a nation-building tool, asking: "If we were to organise a similar exhibition today, who might be included and what themes continue to resonate?"

Paintings by those exhibited at the 1922 congress are juxtaposed with contemporary artists such as Hughie O'Donoghue, Diana Copperwhite and Patrick Graham which "explore issues of national identity rooted in the diaspora and landscape". In conjunction with visual art, musicians and composers are contributing to the project including The Goodman Trio, Liz Carroll, Marty Fahey and The Seamus Egan project.

For anyone in Paris on Saturday, March 12th the Centre Culturel Irlandais is holding the second of a number of evenings of lively debate that "brings together outstanding contemporary thinkers and authorities in their field to speak of their aspirations for Ireland's future". The series echoes some of the talks given at the 1922 congress when Jack B Yeats delivered his only public lecture on Irish art; his brother William spoke on Irish literature, and Douglas Hyde spoke on the Irish language. Contributors to the series of talks, which run until June, include Irish activist Panti Bliss, Irish Times journalist Fintan O'Toole and Oxford University's new Professor of Composition Jennifer Walshe.

Ireland 1922, the book edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry, features 50 essays from leading scholars that "explore a turning point in history" and considers "many of the key issues and debates of a year that transformed Ireland". In collaboration with Century Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy is making the 50 essays available online. Each contributor focuses on one event "that illuminates a key aspect of revolutionary Ireland".

Art sale

To mark the occasion of the centenary of the congress and the 300 Irish artworks which were displayed in France, Sotheby's is holding a special sale and exhibition in Paris from May 9th-16th. The dedicated cross category sale, Ireland/France: Art, Literature, Wine will offer key works by Ireland's leading artists and writers with French connections and those who were represented in the 1922 World Congress exhibition.

The online sale, which will also celebrate French vineyards with Irish links, “will be a celebration of the cultural connections that have long united Ireland and France”.

With works by Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy, Roderic O'Conor and Letitia Hamilton the sale will also have works by Countess Markievicz, whose art featured in the 1922 exhibition. Countess Markievicz was also a prominent delegate at the event at which she urged the congress to counteract the negative stereotypes of Irish people in the British media. Works in literature by W.B Yeats, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce will also feature.

At the 1922 Paris showcase - which has been described as a cultural coup - the French government purchased a west of Ireland Paul Henry painting. While it was the only known sale at the exhibition, now in the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the exhibition itself was seminal in that all those works and artists are still revered today.

seeingireland.ie, sniteartmuseum.nd.edu, ria.ie, centreculturelirlandais.com, sothebys.com