Billy Shortall is an Irish Art History PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. His research is situated where art and politics overlap and it interrogates how the Irish Free State harnessed visual art for political purposes in the decade after independence.
The Liam Swords bursary enabled him to spend time in Paris researching an important Irish Art exhibition held there in January 1922, just as the Irish Free State was transitioning to independence. As part of a programme to have the State's sovereignty recognised internationally, the Irish Government participated in a World Congress for the Irish Race in Paris. The congress was a political gathering attended by an Irish delegation that included three future Irish Presidents and diaspora organisations from thirty countries. It was occasioned by a major Irish art exhibition of three hundred art works. This was the first time the nascent State used art to position itself internationally. Both Eamon De Valera and Arthur Griffith approved of this display - recognising its value as political propaganda.
To this end, the bursary will enable him to retrace events and access a number of French archives/institutions that contain material relevant to the exhibition and Congress as he prepares a paper and lecture :
'"I know its value for propaganda" - a major Irish art exhibition in Paris, 1922'.
In the words of the Rev. Liam Swords
'the aim is to establish a grant for a student of talent from the Irish Higher education sector to pursue his/her studies/research/training for an academic year in Paris and to immerse themselves in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. Candidates will be chosen from the widest possible groups, e.g., musicians, artists, sculptors, writers, scientists, engineers, scholars, craft-workers, theologians, architects, students of haute cuisine or haute couture, cinematographers etc.'