Odysseys: An exhibition celebrating the centenary of James Joyce’s Ulysses

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ODYSSEYS is an exhibition celebrating the centenary of James Joyce’s famed Ulysses, and his overlooked connections to Cork is currently on at Crawford Art Gallery.

What many people do not know is that James Joyce’s family hailed from Cork. It is said that he had a lilting Cork accent, which can be heard in recordings of his voice.

And, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he even wrote about his childhood visit to the city with his father in 1894, when it became necessary to sell their properties in the South Parish.

Co-curator of the exhibition, Dr Flicka Small

Dr Small continues: “In the novel, Joyce’s alter-ego Stephen Dedalus describes their wanderings around Cork, visiting his father’s old haunts. They stayed in the Victoria Hotel, walked to the Mardyke and Queen’s College, now UCC, and talked with characters in the pubs and markets.”

Ulysses was published in Paris on 2 February 1922 – the Irish writer’s 40th birthday. Ulysses holds many parallels with Homer’s Odyssey, which details its hero’s epic voyage home to Ithaca.

Joyce transforms this into Leopold Bloom’s day-long journey across Dublin, popularly celebrated as Bloom’s Day every 16 June.

Odysseys
Beatrice E. Gubbins, Sorrento, 1924. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Joyce himself embarked on a lifelong journey as a writer outside of Ireland, living variously in Trieste, Pola, Rome, Zürich, London, and Paris.

The exhibition offers an exploration of these and other journeys through art, from Ancient Greece to 1920s Samoa, with a special focus on Joyce’s own often overlooked relationship with Cork.

James Joyce: Framed in Cork, a chapter from the new documentary from director Marcella O’Connor, accompanies the exhibition and features Small, as well as Cork writer Cónal Creedon and local historian, the late Ronnie Herlihy.

rsz 1john gilbert the pigeon house dublin 1913 collection crawford art gallery cork
John Gilbert, The Pigeon House, Dublin, 1913. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.

Aside from the Joyce connection, ODYSSEYS embraces the wider sense of journeys in art, from the mythic to every day, and from leisurely travel to necessary migration.

Through works from the national collection at Crawford Art Gallery, it considers the ways journeys shape our identities, express our desires, and define our existences.

Co-curator of the exhibition, Dr Michael Waldron explains: “In addressing a theme as big as ‘odysseys’, we have been keen to tell more than just the adventures of a privileged few, but also consider what Impact travel may have on an artist’s work, how being nomadic or peripatetic may define a culture and the genuine trauma and peril that may face the migrant.”

Open daily and entry to the exhibition is free.

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