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The Medieval Period (1100AD - 1499AD)


Dunskey Castle


Dunskey Castle, Portpatrick is one of the most romantic sites in Wigtownshire and its spectacular cliff top position has attracted many artists over the years. The earliest known painting of the castle is dated 1789 and once formed part of the private collection of King George 111.

Most artists have used conventional media such as oil, water colour and charcoal to capture Dunskey Castle. But Stranraer barber T P O’Keefe decided to use a quite different medium to portray the ruins – human hair.

O’Keefe’s technique was simple, effective and unique. The subject matter of the painting was sketched in pencil and then glue was applied to the areas which needed colouring. Fine hair clippings were sprinkled over the glue and this process was repeated to introduce detail and tone. We do not know if O’Keefe selected special hair for his paintings or just collected random sweepings from around the barber’s chair. The hair used in the Dunskey painting appears to be predominatly brown but O’Keefe’s palette had the potential to be as as colourful as his customers’ hair.

T P O’Keefe produced a number of hair paintings in the 1940s and 50s and they hung on the walls of the barber’s shop. Dunskey Castle is the only example in the museum’s collections.

Place of Production:
hair, glass, wood, card
560mm x 460mm
Stranraer Museum
Accession number:
WIWMS F1987.89
Digital Number:
Creation Date:
Dumfries & Galloway Council

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