North of the Seine, South of the Somme : A Crossroads in France

Hughie O'Donoghue

In the mid-1990s, O'Donoghue's work became inextricably intertwined with his own familial past. When he learned that his father, Daniel, was dying, the artist began to spend extensive time with him, interviewing him about his family background and his father's service in World War II. After his father's death, O'Donoghue immersed himself in his wartime materials, letters and photographs. It became an obsessive preoccupation, the process of learning more about the man O'Donoghue admits he had a difficult relationship with. His study led him deep into the archives of the Imperial War Museum. The experience directly inspired the artist's next series, The Fall of France, a body of work that investigates the nature of war and its impact in the individual and collective memory. The paintings refer to his father's journey with the British Expeditionary Force through Europe and his retreat from France through the port of Cherbourg in 1940, after the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Hughie O'Donoghue, The Visceral Body, Hughie O'Donoghue, edited by Jo Baring, Lund Humphries, London, 2023

O'Donoghue made a series of colour carborundum prints in 1997 titled A Line of Retreat - this was a summary of key images that had formed in paintings inspired by events recounted in his father's war diaries. The artist works and re-works themes, and reappropriates imagery, in different media and at varying scales, to present a series of oblique, open-ended narratives. The present work depicts a dilemma of direction facing his father's unit retreating through France, unable to use lights and practically surrounded by enemy soldiers.

Hughie O'Donoghue (b.1953)
North of the Seine, South of the Somme : A Crossroads in France
Oil on canvas
82 ¾ x 86 ¾ in : 210.0 x 220.0 cm
Signed, titled and dated by the artist verso
Acquired directly from the artist
Purdy Hicks Gallery, London
Available for sale, please enquire for price
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