Henry O’Neill of the ‘Celtic Cross’: Irish antiquarian artist and patriot

Peter Harbison

Regular price €30.00

2014, Wordwell Books,                                                                                                           240 pages

Henry O’Neill is best known as an artist, archaeologist, publisher and polemicist as seen through his various books – The Sculptured Crosses of Ancient Ireland, Ireland for the Irish and The Round Towers of Ireland (Co. Dublin only). But they give a mere inkling of the impressive compendium of work that O’Neill produced throughout a long and active career spanning forty years and more. We find out a lot more through the sketch-books of his that survive, and realise what an incredible amount of travelling and sketching he did through his interest in castles or tower-houses, though he also covered a wide variety of other monuments from prehistoric times almost up to his own day. These sketch-books and note-books have fortunately been preserved in Glenstal Abbey. O’Neill must – along with Petrie, G.V. Du Noyer and W.F. Wakeman – be ranked very highly among Irish antiquarian artists of the late Georgian and Victorian periods, hence the need to restore his reputation in this volume. Written by well known art-historian and archaeologist Dr Peter Harbison, this book sets out to provide if not a full catalogue of his work but a representative sample of his best painting and sketching. Dr Peter Harbison is perhaps best known for his Guide to the National and Historic Monuments of Ireland but over a long career he has published widely. Among over 30 titles might be mentioned: Irish High Crosses, William Burton Conyngham and His Irish Circle of Antiquarian Artists (Studies in British Art), The Crucifixion in Irish Art, Pre-Christian Ireland: From the First Settlers to the Early Celts, Spectacular Ireland and at least three volumes on the eighteenth century antiquarian and artist Gabriel Beranger. He foremerly edited Ireland of the welcomes.