Saturday, 21 February 2015

Grandad and the Metropolitan School of Art

As a genealogist, I just love finding my ancestors in new (to me) record sets!

National Library and Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin 

Since my request, a couple of weeks ago, for those ‘in the know’ to tell me more about my maternal grandfather, I've not been disappointed. Many new snippets of information, mostly about his paintings, have come to light, but one little titbit stands out - maybe because I have already found the independent documentary evidence to prove it. Kevin Wynne attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, deemed to have been Ireland’s premiere art college (thank you, Anne, for letting me know). While, I was well aware of his artistic leanings, this I did not know (or, perhaps, had forgotten). 

Granted, the supporting evidence has long been available online, but I hadn't come across it before. In 2005, the National Irish Visual Arts Library indexed and digitised copy images of the student registers of the Metropolitan School of Art. These date from 1877 to 1936. In 1936, the School became the National College of Art and Design and the registers, for its first fifty years to 1986, were also published online. I easily found my grandfather's name in their database. He was mentioned in twelve separate documents, providing such information as to his age, address, occupation and his semi-annual fee payments.

Students of a life class at work in the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin

In October 1927, Kevin Wynne, then with an address at 21 Upper Rutland Street, enrolled for a drawing or a figure drawing class at the Metropolitan School of Art, where he paid 6s/6d to attend three evenings a week. He signed up again for the academic year 1931-32. The College was situated in Kildare Street, between the National Library and Leinster House (now the seat of the Irish parliament).

Not that I'm name dropping, but William Orpen, Harry Clarke and Kevin's friend Evie Hone, all attended the school at various points over the decades - as well as about 25,000 other budding artists. Even the renowned Irish poet William Butler Yeats, having spent a term or two studying at the school, is listed amongst its alumni.

Kevin Wynne, Student 562, Register 1938, National College of Ireland, NIVAL

In October 1938, two years after his marriage to my grandmother, my grandfather returned to pursue his studies at the school. By then, it had been designated the National College of Art and Design. Painting, sculpture and design classes had been added to the curriculum and, in the previous year, Sean Keating was named the Professor of Painting. Maurice MacGonigal was appointed as his assistant. These accomplished Irish artists became my grandfather's teachers. 

While living at 3 Buckingham Cottages, Kevin attended the college three or four evenings a week, for four years. He started in October 1938 for three years, took a break for the year 1941-42 and returned for a final year commencing in October 1942. I wonder why he took the year off. Perhaps he had not the heart to enroll in 1941, following the death of his two-month old son, Kevin, in April that year.

Image sources:

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Dara, superb to discover your grandfather in these records! It must have been such an interesting time to be studying art with the likes of Sean Keating and Maurice McGonigal. In the early 1930s, Keating painted a wonderful presentation portrait of my great-grandfather’s first cousin Laurence J. Kettle.

    So very sad too that your grandfather suffered the loss of his baby son. I wonder if painting was the succour that helped him cope with such a terrible loss. Also, on the register I notice, in addition to that of your grandfather, there is quite an interesting cross section of professions of the persons enrolled, among them a metal worker, rate collectors, a draper, and a wages clerk. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that art studio.

  2. Indeed Jennifer, it's also remembered that Maurice MacGonigal liked my Granddad's final year painting and swapped it for one of his own. My poor grandmother, a widow with seven children by the time she was 50, had other things on her mind and sadly, none of the paintings have survived.

  3. How interesting. Do you have any of his artwork?

    1. What a shame, I hope one turns up some day.

  4. That's really interesting and very cool


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