The Irish artist and writer Edith Somerville said that she ‘was taught in Paris that it was the first impression that mattered – paint rapidly so as to keep it fresh’. TWO IRISH GIRLS IN BOHEMIA captures those initial impressions in its study of Somerville’s sketchbooks from 1880 up until World War I. It shows how visual art became central in fiction about Ireland that Somerville co-authored with her cousin Martin Ross (Violet Martin).
These ladies of the Big House travelled back and forth from Ireland to continental Europe throughout the belle époque. The sketchbooks and other ephemeral material – such as first drafts of Somerville and Ross’s great realist novel, The Real Charlotte (1894), correspondence, children’s books and cartoon strips – bring to life the risks and delights that women artist/writers faced. With little money but plenty of friends, Somerville and Ross managed to establish a writing partnership that produced a range of comic works bringing together picture and text.
This book is about the struggle to create art. It shows the Anglo-Irish network that supported, but also constrained, the young women writers. It describes reactions to a modernising world, whether it is introducing the bicycle to Connemara or impressionist ideas to the developing Irish short story. And it reveals the extent to which Somerville and Ross responded to the art and literature of the day, especially Irish writers like Oscar Wilde, Lady Gregory, W.B. Yeats and George Moore.
Originally from Great Falls, Montana, Julie Anne Stevens came to Ireland with her family as a teenager. She lived in Cong, Co. Mayo and studied Irish literature in University College Galway, eventually moving to Dublin where she continued her research in Trinity College. She now publishes and lectures on Irish literature and the visual arts, illustrated children’s books, and short fiction. She published The Irish Scene in Somerville and Ross in 2007 and co-edited The Ghost Story from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century in 2010. She lectures in the School of English, Dublin City University, lives in Dublin and visits Montana whenever she can.
‘A terrific subject here, and the archival material . . . , particularly Somerville’s sketchbooks, is really illuminating. . . . Fascinating reading.’
NICHOLAS GRENE, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF LITERATURE, TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN
ISBN:978 0 9955239 44
234 x 156mm 148pp
Illustrated paperback with flaps
7 September 2017
Also available on Kindle £6.81