On this day…31 August

On 31 August 1933 Frank Budgen presented Harriet Weaver with a painting of the Liffey commissioned by Joyce.

Joyce commissioned his friend Frank Budgen to paint a view of the River Liffey as a gift for his patron, Harriet Weaver, on her fifty-seventh birthday. The painting showed a view of river with the bridge at Chapelizod in the foreground and a broken wall in the distance.

Joyce came up with the idea early in 1933 and asked Budgen to visit Dublin and make some sketches. This was Budgen’s first visit to Dublin and he made sketches of several different scenes. The sketches were sent to Harriet Weaver so she could choose the scene she liked best, and Joyce then commissioned Budgen to make an oil painting from the sketch in time for Weaver’s birthday on 1 September.

On 28 August, Joyce wrote again to Budgen to remind him that Weaver’s birthday was on Friday and that he should now ring her and make an appointment to deliver the painting. Budgen delivered the painting to her flat at Gloucester Place on Thursday 31 August, and Weaver had it hung in a place of honour over her mantelpiece.

The painting didn’t survive very long, however. In May 1934 a fire in the flat below Harriet Weaver’s burnt a hole through her floor. Many of her possessions were damaged or destroyed including Budgen’s painting which was badly damaged. Budgen made good by painting a replica of the original on a slightly larger canvas. Budgen himself preferred the second painting which, like its predecessor, was hung over the mantelpiece.


Sources & Further Reading:

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

Lidderdale, Jane & Mary Nicholson: Dear Miss Weaver – Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961, London: Faber & Faber, 1970.