Bere Island’s links to booker prize nominee

September 22nd, 2022 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

Booker prize nominee Claire Keegan’s book cover features art by Robert Gibbings, who spent time on Bere Island.

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A WOODCUT print of snow-covered Dublin rooftops by Cork artist Robert Gibbings is now being brought to a worldwide audience, since the announcement of Irish author Clare Keegan as one of the shortlisted novelists for this year’s Booker prize.

Gibbings print features on the hardback edition of Keegan’s acclaimed novel Small Things Like These.

Robert John Gibbings was born in Cork on March 23rd 1889 to the Reverend Edward Gibbings, rector of Carrigrohane and his wife Caroline Gibbings.

He was educated in Fermoy before entering University College Cork in 1906 to study medicine. However, Gibbing’s real passion was art, and he would later abandon his studies in medicine to move to London in 1911 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts.

He honed his craft in wood engraving and his first exhibition was at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1913.

As World War 1 broke out, Gibbings joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers, and was wounded during the Gallipoli landings.

In 1917 he was stationed at the British Army garrison on Bere Island, and he left the army in 1918.

Gibbings continued to work on his art throughout his military service, and several of his works are based on his war time experiences.    

An avid explorer, he travelled to Tahiti in 1929 and in 1937 visited the West Indies where using  primitive diving apparatus, he made underwater sketches of marine life. He died aged 69 in 1958 in Oxford. A memorial exhibition of his work was held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1960. The Crawford Gallery in Cork holds a large collection of his engravings.

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