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Irish paintings of American artist Rockwell Kent in new documentary Ar Lorg Annie on TG4



Date Posted: October 1, 2020

Investigative journalist Kevin Magee uncovers a tale of romance and political intrigue about a reproduction picture hanging in a pub in Glencolmcille, Co.Donegal. Ar Lorg Annie airs on TG4 on Wednesday 7th October at 9:30pm. The documentary is a Macha Media production made with the support of Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund.

Driven by his curiosity, Kevin Magee goes in search of the lost Irish paintings of controversial American artist Rockwell Kent to reveal how these led to iconic Donegal images being scattered across the globe.

In 1926, Kent spent four months in the Donegal Gaeltacht, but he painted 36 paintings there and made lifelong friends, including Annie McGinley (the subject of the pub picture), her family and their nearest neighbour, sheep farmer Dan Ward.

In the 1950s, Kent wanted to return to Ireland, to buy 1000 acres of mountain land and work from there part of the year. But international politics, in particular the anti-communist campaign of US Senator Joseph McCarthy (Kent was often denounced for having voted as a socialist and being affiliated with many causes espoused by communists), prevented him returning to Ireland for many years. By then it was too late.

An investigations correspondent with BBC News Northern Ireland, Kevin Magee used his journalistic skills to uncover the whereabouts of the paintings, and travelled to New York and St Petersburg to find the most famous works from Kent’s Irish collection, such as Annie McGinley and Dan Ward’s Stack.

He said: “The instant I saw copies of some of Rockwell Kent’s Irish paintings I was hooked. At one time Kent was a household name in the United States but very little was known about the time he spent working in the Donegal Gaeltacht and I wanted to change that, and uncover and tell his story.

“His Donegal paintings are spectacular, and in the film they are brought to a local audience for the first time. When I started out I didn’t realise my search would bring me to galleries and private collections across the world.”

In the programme, Kevin discovers that the people and landscape of Glencolmcille, Glenlough and Port, made a deep impression on the American artist, and like Kent himself, he returns to the Donegal Gaeltacht to find out what happened to the people Kent painted and hear accounts from their living relatives.

In particular, he goes in search of Annie McGinley, whom Kent painted on the cliffs of Donegal. Who was she? Does she have any family alive today? What can they tell us about the relationship between Annie and the artist?

While ostensibly looking for the lost Irish paintings, Kevin finds much more than beautiful images of the rugged Irish landscape. He discovers lifelong friendships and a love affair with Donegal and its people that survived international intrigue and the Cold War.

Adds Kevin: “As well as finding the paintings, I wanted to tell the stories of the local native Irish speakers who appeared in his pictures.

“In spite of everything that happened to Kent, he never forgot Donegal or its people, and more than 30 years after his first visit he returned there searching for Annie. It’s an extraordinary true life story that often reads like fiction.”

Ar Lorg Annie airs on TG4 on Wednesday 7th October at 9:30pm.


Pictiúirí Éireannacha an ealaíontóra Rockwell Kent sa chlár faisnéise nua ‘Ar Lorg Annie’

In Ar Lorg Annie, tagann an iriseora iniúchta Kevin Magee ar scéal rómánsaíochta agus ar bheartaíocht pholaitiúil a d’fhág pictúirí ícónacha Connallacha scaipthe ar fud an domhain. Craolfar an clár faisnéise Dé Céadaoin 7ú Deireadh Fómhair ag 9:30pm ar TG4. Léirithe ag Macha Media a rinneadh le tacaíocht ó Chiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge Scáileán Thuaisceart Éireann.

Pictúir macasamhail a bhí ar crochadh i bpub i nGleann Cholm Cille a mhuscail spéis an iriseora agus a spréag aistear ar lorg phictiúirí Éireannacha an ealaíontóra chonspóidigh Mheiriceánaigh, Rockwell Kent.

I 1926 chaith Kent ceithre mhí i nGaeltacht Dhún na nGall, ach rinne sé 36 pictiúr ann chomh maith le cairde saoil. Ina measc bhí Annie McGinley (ábhar an phictiúir sa phub), a muintir agus an comharsa ba deise dóibh, an feirmeoir caorach Dan Ward.

Sna 1950s, bhí Kent ag iarraidh pilleadh ar Éirinn, 1000 acra de thalamh sléibhe a cheannach agus a bheith ag obair ann cuid den bhliain.  Ach chuir an pholaitíocht idirnáisiúnta, agus feachtas fríthchumannach an tseanadóra Mheiriceánaigh Joseph McCarthy ach go háirithe (ba mhinic Kent á cháineadh as a bheith ina shóisialaí agus as baint a bheith aige le cúiseanna ar thacaigh cumannaigh leo), chuir siad bac air taisteal go hÉirinn ar feadh cuid mhaith blianta.  Faoin am sin bhí sé ró-mhall.

Is Chomhfhreagraí Iniúchta le Nuacht BBC TÉ é Kevin Magee agus d’úsáid sé a chuid scileanna iriseoireachta leis na pictiúirí a aimsiú. Thaisteal sé go Nua Eabhrac agus go Cathair Naomh Peadar leis na saothair Éireannacha is clúití de chuid Kent a fheiceáil, amhail ‘Annie McGinley’ agus ‘Dan Ward’s Stack’.

Dúirt sé: “Chomh luath agus a chonaic mé cóipeanna de roinnt pictiúr Éireannach de chuid Kent bhí mé gafa. Bhí am ann nuair a bhí Kent i mbéal an phobail sna Stáit Aontaithe ach is beag eolais a bhí ann faoin am a chaith sé ag obair i nGaeltacht Dhún na nGall agus bhí mé ag iarraidh sin a chur ina cheart agus scéal s’aige a nochtadh agus a insint.  Tá a chuid pictiúr Conallach ar fheabhas ar fad, agus sa scannán tá siad le feiceáil ag lucht féachana áitiúil den chéad uair riamh.  Nuair a thosaigh mé is beag a shíl mé go dtabharfadh mo chuardach mé go gailearaithe agus go cnuasaigh phríomhaideacha ar fud an domhain.”

Fuair Kevin amach go ndeachaidh pobal agus tírdhreach Ghleann Cholm Cille, Ghleann Locha agus Phoirt go mór i bhfeidhm ar an ealaíontóir Meiriceánach, agus dála Kent, pilleann sé féin ar Ghaeltacht Dhún na nGall le fáil amach cad é a tharla do na daoine ar phéinteáil Kent iad, agus le labhairt le gaolta da gcuid atá sa cheantar go fóill.

Tá spéis faoi leith ag Kevin in Annie McGinley, a ndearna Kent pictiúr dí ar na beanna os cionn na farraige.  Cérbh í?  Bhfuil gaolta léi beo sa lá inniu?  An bhfuil a fhios acu a dhath faoin chaidreamh a bhí aici leis an ealaíontóir?

Agus é ar lorg na bpictiúr caillte tagann Kevin ar níos mó ná íomhánna áille de bhreáthacht gharbh na dúiche.  Tagann sé ar chairdis saoil agus dáimh le Tír Chonaill a tháinig slán as beartaíocht idirnáisiúnta agus An Cogaidh Fuar.

“Chomh maith leis na pictiúir a aimsiú, bhí mé ag iarraidh scéaltaí na gcainteoirí dúchais atá sna pictiúir a inse. In aineoinn gach ar tharla do Kent, ní dhearna sé dearmad ariamh ar Thír Chonaill nó ar muintir na háite, agus breis agus 30 bliain i ndiaidh a chéadchuairte phill sé ar lorg Annie. Is fíorscéal é atá chomh hiontach le scéal ficsin.”

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