Rowel Boyd Friers (1920-1988)

Market Day (1947)

Oil on canvas

49cm x 91cm

Courtesy of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Museum and Heritage Service Collections

Born in Belfast in 1920, Rowel Boyd Friers was educated at Park Parade Intermediate School on the Ravenhill Road. At the age of fifteen he worked as an apprentice lithographer whilst studying part-time at the Belfast School of Art. In 1953 the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) organised an exhibition at 55a Donegall Place where Friers showed paintings, drawings, cartoons and illustrations. His practice consisted primarily of cartoons and illustrations with humorous depictions of well-known 20th century politicians appearing in publications. In addition to working for television companies like the BBC and Ulster Television, he also illustrated a significant number of books, perhaps most notably Irish Folk Tales, edited by W.B. Yeats in 1973.

Friers was appointed MBE in 1977 for contributions to journalism and broadcasting and then in 1981, he was awarded an Honorary MA from the Open University. He was also elected President of the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts in 1994.

The poet John Hewitt described him as “the most versatile of his generation, Friers had produced a steady flow of book illustrations, book plates, caricatures and cartoons ranging from Christmas cards to stage sets and oil paintings.” This painting, entitled Market Day is an example of Friers’ ability to capture the mood of a scene. The animated faces of conversation and the movement of a bustling market is indicative of his interest in the interpretation of human character and behaviour.