Una Watters will be making a return to Ballinasloe this autumn when two of her late-period watercolours will be presented to the Ballinasloe Library by Una’s family. The presentation will happen on Culture Night (September 23).
The watercolours are part of a set that hung for over 50 years on the walls of the bridge room in the old Emerald Ballroom on Society Street, now Ballinasloe’s community and jobs hub. Several of the series featured in our retrospective – Una Watters: Into the Light – held earlier this year at the United Arts Club, Dublin.
When the watercolours were being reframed in preparation for the show, five more were found on the reverse sides, bringing the total rediscovered to 19 out of the original 25.
They depict impressionistic landscapes and flowers executed swiftly and are delicate and ethereal in mood. They were were perhaps studies for a bigger work, though they have a real minimalist charm in their own right. Her husband, Eugene, documented how the paintings, probably her last works, were painted very shortly before Una’s unexpected death on November 21, 1965.
“About a fortnight before the end,” he wrote, “she painted a remarkable series of watercolours, in a style and technique she had not used before. These pictures, 25 in number, were all painted in a single day, the artist working at high speed, as if hypnotised, in a final burst of creative energy. The room at Cappagh Crossroads (looking out on the late-autumn garden, trees, cornfields, and the Dublin hills) was simply littered with watercolours; and so absorbed was the artist that she did not wait to get fresh paper but painted new aspects of the developing theme on the backs of those already dry.”
The two watercolours from the so-called Emerald Ballroom series – see separate page on this site – will be on permanent display in the library on Society Street. It’s a particularly fitting location given that Una spent her working life as a librarian.
In another Ballinalsoe development, the sign outside Creagh Cemetery has been altered to include reference to Una’s final resting place. Although she was a native of Cappagh, near Finglas, Co Dublin, Ballinasloe had become a second home during her marriage because Eugene hailed from Ballinasloe. Hitherto, only Eugene’s name was listed, but on the instigation of Enda Creaven, and with the support of Una’s niece, Sheila Smith, the new sign went up over the summer giving Una prominence. She was buried in Creagh in 1965. The inscription reads: Here is the beloved clay which they inhabited.
Una was very attached to Ballinasloe and its environs. She and Eugene spent every summer with Eugene’s family, writing and painting as well as fishing on the River Suck, at which Una became a verified expert. Her watercolours often recorded this river life – see blog “Wild Apples” June 24, 2020. As Eugene remarked about that painting, the river depicted could be any river, “but it is a real river, our Suck; an actual landing and landing place, in a grove of bog-ash and hazel in the wilderness near the mouth of the Killeglin river”.
The presentation of Una’s paintings to Ballinasloe Library, Society Street, takes place as part of Culture Night celebrations, Friday, September 23. Time and details TBA.
Top of the post: Dawnscape in Grey Limestone (24 ) – see our dedicated Emerald Ballroom Watercolours page – one of two watercolours being donated to Ballinsaloe Library.