Harry Kernoff (1900-1974)
Harry Aaron Kernoff was an Irish painter and printmaker of London/Russian extraction. He is primarily remembered for his sympathetic interest in Dublin and its people. He depicted street and pub scenes, as well as Dublin landmarks with sympathy and understanding. This is particularly evident in his woodcuts, the blocks of which are in the collection of The National Library of Ireland. While living in his adopted Dublin Jewish community in Portobello, Dublin 8, he produced picture illustrations of local scenes and people. Kernoff became a leading figure in Irish Modernism. In 1930, Kernoff visited the Soviet Union as part of an Irish delegation from the friends of Soviet Russia led by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. He identified with people whose professions were becoming marginalized, and often draw sketches of Dublin dock workers he met. He is famously associated with Davy Byrne’s pub, where he made many drawings – documents of his friendship with the original owner.
Harry Kernoff spent the vast majority of his life unappreciated, and made little or nothing from his paintings until a few years before his death, when he began to be appreciated by contemporary critics. He never married. His works are in all major collections in Ireland, and his prints contain much social history, including woodcuts made using the timber from Lyons tea boxes, and prints he made using black ink, and added hand colour. He used coloured markers to hand colour his monochrome woodblocks. Many of his works bear his signature in green biro.