THIS HAS ATTRACTED MUCH NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE COMMENT
I was aware of the original work “An Irish Eviction” by Daniel MacDonald, a powerful depiction of a family being evicted during the Great Famine (c. 1850). I knew that Adam Doyle had digitally replaced the original 19th-century figures with images of contemporary Gardaí (Irish police) and private security personnel, often seen in modern eviction scenarios.
This modern artwork ignited debate upon its resurfacing in 2023 after the Irish government ended an eviction ban. Some see it as a poignant commentary on Ireland’s housing crisis and the historical trauma of evictions. Others criticise its portrayal of An Garda Síochána.
Note: Gardaí are not actively removing people from their homes during an eviction. That is typically carried out by a sheriff or private security personnel.
Many recent evictions in Ireland stem from rental properties where tenants fall into arrears. In such cases, it is less likely that the Gardaí would be involved. But I am certain that, regardless, those being evicted will be traumatised.
Doyle maintains the work highlights the emotional weight of evictions within Ireland’s collective memory. He draws parallels between historical landlordism and the ongoing housing struggles faced by many Irish citizens.
Daniel MacDonald emerged from the vibrant artistic community of Cork, Ireland, in the early 19th century. The son of a caricaturist, he inherited his father’s eye for detail and line, demonstrating a natural talent for drawing from a young age. Initially known for his playful pen-and-ink sketches, he captured personalities and scenes of Cork with both humour and insight. These early successes, including having etchings published as a teenager, fuelled his artistic ambition.
As he matured, MacDonald’s focus shifted. He became fascinated by the lives and struggles of Ireland’s ordinary people. He honed his skills in various mediums – chalks, watercolours, and oils – to portray the rural labourers and urban working class with both dignity and realism. Yet, his life and career would be indelibly marked by the tragedy of the Great Famine (1845-1849). Unlike most of his contemporaries, MacDonald confronted the devastation head-on, producing stark and haunting images that captured the despair and desperation of the starving population. His most famous work, “An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store”, is a devastatingly iconic image of the Famine era.
Seeking wider recognition, MacDonald and his family moved to London in the mid-1840s. There, his unflinching depictions of the Famine garnered attention and a degree of critical acclaim. Tragically, his promising career was cut short when he died at the young age of 32 in 1853.
Though his life was brief, his legacy remains important. MacDonald stands as one of the few Irish artists of his time to directly confront the horrors of the Great Famine, offering a raw and unflinching visual record of a defining period in Irish history. His works remain important for their historical value as well as their poignant depiction of human suffering and resilience.
Adam Doyle is a contemporary Irish artist and illustrator whose work often blends pop-culture references, satirical humour, and social commentary. Working digitally as well as with traditional mediums, Doyle draws inspiration from sources ranging from comic books to classic paintings. He is known for a distinct style that often features bold outlines and a raw, unfinished quality. His work frequently sparks conversation and even controversy by challenging societal norms or highlighting social injustices.
As already mentioned, one of Doyle’s most discussed pieces is his reworking of Daniel MacDonald’s “An Irish Eviction”. This digital alteration overlays figures of contemporary Gardaí and security personnel onto the historical depiction of a Famine-era eviction. This image has generated debate about Ireland’s housing crisis, historical memory, and the role of protest art.
Doyle’s work often touches upon themes of Irish identity, social inequality, and the power dynamics within society. He is an active presence on social media, where he shares his art and engages with his audience, fostering discussions about the deeper meanings behind his creations.