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COVER 202 COVER KATHLEEN COSTELLO-SULLIVAN Seán Keating, “Economic Pressure” (1936). By permission of the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork. Such was the scale of emigration from Ireland in the century after 1830 that deciding whether to stay or leave was a normal part of growing up, a rite of passage for adolescents and young adults. Two of every five Irishborn people were living abroad by 1890. The moment of farewell and departure, accompanied by the knowledge that return would be all but impossible, became a central motif in Irish culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Seán Keating dramatically captures that moment here in his 1936 painting, “Economic Pressure.” The forlorn landscape, with its craggy rocks, stunted tree, and overcast skies, seems to embody the conditions that could necessitate such mass emigration. This topographical bleakness also parallels the mother’s grief as she bids goodbye to her son, a parallel that evokes the long history of turbulence and instability that had characterized Ireland’s nineteenth century. The two men, with their turned backs and bowed heads, suggest both the discomfort of goodbye and perhaps familiarity with such painful scenes. Finally, the sailboat that has already departed, heading in the same direction as the rowboat is pointing, suggests the recurrent nature of such departures. The picture is not entirely devoid of hope, however. The light on the horizon, although ambiguous, seems to suggest an alternative to such dark moments, and perhaps the possibility of a brighter future abroad. ...


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