Black Chimneypiece

James O'Halloran

© James O'Halloran

James O'Halloran (Irish, 1955–2014). Black Chimneypiece, n.d./oil on board. Gift of the Donald and Marilyn Keough Foundation, 2017.052.009

"Born in West Clare, James O'Halloran trained at the Limerick College of Art and Design in the 1970s and remained based in Clare and Limerick Counties throughout his life. Yet in contrast with many painters of Ireland's western regions, he primarily turned his attention to interior space rather than the natural world. His intimate oil-on-board compositions capture surprising moments of light and color in ordinary domestic environments."

From the entry on Black Chimneypiece in the catalogue for the Donald and Marilyn Keough Foundation gift. 
Cheryl K. Snay, The Donald and Marilyn Keough Collection of Irish Art, Snite Museum of Art, 2019.
Dr. Snay is the Snite Museum's Curator of European Art.

Marty Fahey proposes a few pairings to amplify viewers' experiences with Black Chimneypiece:

Few yearnings spark and capture our imaginations so reliably over time—with a deep primordial past, an abiding power in the present and a dreamy future prospect as wellthan sitting near to a bright, warm, crackling fire. In our climate,  the cool, crisp air of Fall “rekindles” this longing and thoughts often give way to plans for quiet moments curled up with a book or a pleasant piece of music, with coffee, tea, or wine close to hand.

Here’s a bit of poetry and music to accompany this painting and to help you celebrate November’s invitation for those quiet, imagined moments.

When you are Old

William Butler Yeats,  published in The Rose (1893)


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Morcheen · "Soft Mild Morning" (track 5) from IRELAND: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690-1840 CD

"Soft Mild Morning"

Collected by Edward Bunting from Denis Hempson, 1796.

Published by Bunting in the third and final addition of his collection, 1840. 

(From IRELAND: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690-1840- The Music /

Track 5: Marty Fahey, piano)


This melody was preserved by the noted Armagh-born collector/musicologist, Edward Bunting (1773–1843), from the noted (and remarkably long-lived !) harper, Dennis Hempson Garvagh, Co Derry, (1695-1807). Though Bunting transcribed it when Hempson was already 101, he did not publish it until his third and final edition of The Ancient Music of Ireland, in 1840.

Learn more.

It was published with the note: “very ancient, author and date unknown.” Bunting also reported that Hempson was the only remaining harper at the famous Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 who played in the old Bardic style, with long crooked fingernails on strings of brass (vs ‘gut’ strings), while others at the time had transitioned to playing by pulling the strings between the fleshy tips of their fingers. (One can imagine a vast difference, sonically, between the older approach on brass strings and that of the younger harpers, both of whom Bunting encountered.)