Charles McAuley (1910-99)
Midday on the Moss
Oil on board
43cm x 65.9cm
National Museums NI
Charles McAuley was a celebrated 20th Century landscape and figure painter, most associated with his beloved Glens of Antrim. He was born in Glenaan, near Cushendall, county Antrim on the 15th March 1910, the youngest of eight children. McAuley painted from a young age and was for the most part a self-taught artist, although he studied briefly at both Belfast Art College and Glasgow College of Art. As a teenager, he had been encouraged to paint by the famous landscape artist James Humbert Craig, who, like McAuley, was happiest when painting in the Glens of Antrim. Craig had come across McAuley’s work when he was judging an art competition at the Feis na nGleann. McAuley sent some of his works to the Royal Hibernian Academy and they were accepted. He later became a member of both the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Ulster Academy.
Speaking in the 1980s, McAuley acknowledged that he could have been a more successful artist had he been prepared to travel in order to promote his work but noted that it would not have made him happier as he was perfectly content in his home in the Glens. Promotion of his work was something that he left to others, and on his death in 1999, he was lamented not only for his artistic talent but for his modest and gentle nature.
Despite basing himself firmly in county Antrim for most of his career, McAuley’s work is now in several private collections internationally. Many of his portraits are to be found in private collections as they mostly depicted friends and family or were painted on commission. The landscapes for which he is best known can be seen in public collections across Northern Ireland, including the Ballycastle Museum, Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster Museum. This work, Midday on the Moss, is part of the Ulster Museum’s collection. It is a good example of the artist’s work, which often, as here, presents people against the backdrop of the landscape they live in. A couple are depicted enjoying a well-earned break after a morning of working the land, having thrown themselves down to rest on a soft bed of moss. The figures appear exhausted but happy and this is typical of McAuley’s knowing and affectionate depictions of the people he lived alongside going about their daily lives in the Glens.