Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

Aida
Aida
1935
Irish School
Marble
40 x 45.5 cm

478-S
The portrait of Aida shows the influence of the Symbolist movement, and in its own way is as much a heroic personification of an ideal as is Sheppard's life-size bronze The Wexford Pikeman. The sculptor has carved the head and shoulders of the teenage girl in profile and in relief; the figure is still engaged with the block of marble from which the head emerges in a somewhat dream-like way. The background around the girl's head and shoulders has been roughly chiselled to emphasise the Michelangelesque concept of the figure being "liberated" from the stone.


















Oliver Sheppard RHA 1864–1941
Irish School

Like his contemporary John Hughes, Oliver Sheppard came from a Dublin artisan family background (although he was born in Cookstown, county Tyrone) and studied sculpture in Dublin, London and Paris. After teaching at Leicester and Nottingham, he returned to Dublin where he taught at the Metropolitan School of Art. Unlike Hughes, Sheppard wholeheartedly supported the Irish nationalist movement, and, through his work, created some of the most enduring icons of the Irish struggle for national independence over the centuries. His Wexford Pikeman, commemorating the 1798 United Irishmen uprising, and unveiled in 1905, graces the town centre of Wexford in much the same style and spirit as Henry Hudson Kitson's Minuteman, erected five years earlier in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts. Sheppard was called upon to repeat his Wexford success with another memorial to the 1798 uprising in Enniscorthy,which he completed in 1908, and in Stephen's Green in Dublin his memorial sculpture of the Irish nineteenth-century poet James Clarence Mangan was erected the following year. In 1911 Sheppard sculpted the bronze figure of the ancient Celtic mythical warrior Chuchulainn, which was subsequently placed in the General Post Office in Dublin as a commemoration of the Sinn Féin rebellion of 1916.

Apart from his successful public commemorative works, Sheppard carved a number of small and more intimate works in stone, such as Aida, a portrait of a teenage girl, carved in 1935, which shows him to have been a sensitive and talented artist. According to Ciaran MacGonigal, son of the sitter, this portrait was sculpted when his mother was about fifteen or sixteen years of age. His mother's name was Aida, but she was often referred to by the more usual Irish name of Aideen, which irritated her somewhat. She married Maurice MacGonigal, a landscape and portrait painter, who was to become president of the Royal Hibernian Academy and who shared Sheppard's nationalist views.