Recollections Ciarán MacGonigal 3

This picture was painted in the summer of 1953 at the artist’s house, in Derrahowna townland, Errisbeg, Roundstone, Connemara. The weather had been particularly good for several weeks, and the artist had gone out to paint a very large canvas, accompanied by his friend, and his future assistant, the painter Desmond Stephenson (1922-1963).
Stephenson, known to us as Steve, was a close family friend, and shared many of the same literary and musical tastes of my parents. The Canvas which Mac had painted, being unusually large, had to be carried home separately, with Steve bringing up the rear carrying the painting box, mahl stick and the very large palette.
On this occasion, Steve had stopped off for some refreshments, arriving home a good deal later, just as an enormous and long threatened thunder storm broke directly overhead. I remember my father sitting to paint the view from the hall over Mary King's field (she was a neighbor from Errelough) and when Steve appeared in the hall my father said in his very flat way…. “Ah! Home is the hero”….then made him stand there posing whilst he repainted the picture. Steve was very striking looking, with a broad beard, and at that time almost always wore a black Spanish hat and moleskin trousers. The painting had been somewhat larger, but eventually my father cut it down in size. The Palette which was a studio palette and really not suitable for outdoor work, had been Orpen's, passed to our family friend James Sleator and after his death to my father.4 The Palette was highly varnished through regular use, and was always wiped off every evening with linseed oil. It together with some of his best brushes (from the Old Chenil Gallery, Chelsea) were buried on top of his coffin at Gorteen graveyard in Connemara in January 1979. The Palette was larger and beautifully balanced, making it very easy to hold for long periods. The Mahl stick which still survives was used as a prop when painting large canvases.

Ciarán MacGonigal






Extract from
‘Desmond Stephenson A.R.H.A. Coming Home in Connemara’
By Maurice MacGonigal P.R.H.A. 1900-1997
Oil on canvas laid down on wood 36.5 x 27.5
Signed, also signed and inscribed on the reverse