Jim Fitzpatrick, one of Dublin’s most celebrated artists of modern times, will forever be associated with his iconic image of Ernesto Che Guevara. Fitzpatrick’s image of Che is back in the public eye in recent times, as a planned memorial to Guevara in Galway managed to invoke the wrath of Declan Ganley and other conservative voices. There was nothing new about Che’s images provoking controversy, and Jim has spoken before of the response to that iconic image in 1968 when it was completed, noting for example that:
Every shop that stocked the poster was threatened or harassed: in the very fashionable Brown Thomas of Grafton Street, which sold cards and posters in those faraway days, a well-turned out lady bought the entire stock, tore them all to pieces in front of the astonished staff and walked out!
Fitzpatrick’s public announcement in 2011 that he was seeking to obtain copyright on the Guevara image was a noble one, as his grievance was the “crass commercial” usage of the image. Fitzpatrick has sought to give the rights to the image and its use to the Guevara family.
Recently I was directed towards these images, which show some very unusual Fitzpatrick political pieces from the 1970’s. They have come to light recently through the fantastic ‘Official Republican/WP Archive’, which is uploading posters and images relating to the Workers Party and the ‘Official’ Republican movement historically.
This poster showing young Kevin Barry is incredibly striking. Barry, who has been sung of by all including Paul Robeson and Leonard Cohen, is undoubtedly one of the romantic heroes of Irish history, and Fitzpatrick’s image captures his youthful idealism perfectly.
Another Fitzpatrick image I had no familiarity with was this one of James McCormack and Peter Barnes. These two men were hanged in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham in 1940, found guilty of involvement in a bombing in Coventry. As Tim Pat Coogan has noted, the hanging of these men “aroused a wave of bitterness against England in Ireland.”
What strikes me about this image is its similarities with some of Fitzpatrick’s work for the legendary band Thin Lizzy.
In addition to these two images I’d not seen before, this image of Joe McCann from Fitzpatrick is also worthy of inclusion here. McCann, a leading member of the Official IRA, had been shot dead by the Parachute Regiment in April 1972, leading to five days of intense rioting and one of the largest funerals of ‘The Troubles’.
These three images are fantastic visual art and propaganda, and while Fitzpatrick’s contribution to art through his Celtic designs, Thin Lizzy artwork and that image of ‘El Che’ is well known, these are a real snapshot of a moment in Irish history worth sharing here.
The first two images in this post have been taken from the Official Republican/WP Archive, which can be browsed here.