From the ramshackle domestic interior, this painting seems to be of a hedge-school master rather than a national-school teacher. The small keyless flute he plays is a cheap instrument of the kind played in temperance bands in the 1830s and in Land League and other political bands in the 1880s. The approximate dating comes from an engraving of the piece which was published in The Magazine of Art, London, 1888. The well regarded and successful genre painter Howard Helmick, from Ohio, studied in Paris before coming to live in London. He worked in Ireland from the early 1870s through the 1880s, specialising in studies of rural life with studios in Dangan Cottage, Co Galway, and in Kinsale, Co Cork. His paintings are noted for their close observation and authentic detail.
The original painting is on display in the current National Gallery of Ireland exhibition Taking Stock: Acquisitions 2000–2010 which will continue until 25 July 2010 at Merrion Square, Dublin 2 (see www.ngi.ie for details).
Courtesy and © National Gallery of Ireland, per Irish Traditional Music Archive
Published on 1 June 2010