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    Tuesday, December 12th, 2023
    David Stephenson – Ann and Ollie, Main Street, Wexford,

    This is David Stephenson’s prizewinning entry to the Zurich Portrait Prize. The winner was announced this evening at the National Gallery. His portrait of Ann and Ollie, Main St., Wexford was taken while he was recovering from Covid. The judges were Dorothy Cross RHA, artist, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, and Anne Stewart, Senior Curator of Art, National Museums Northern Ireland.

    The artist explained that: “During lockdown, I made a short film in which I tried to portray what we all experienced: the isolation that enhanced one’s sense of aloneness. Something of that silence and separateness resonates in this image. What drew my eye was Ann’s red coat, the condensation that made a ghost of Ollie, and how they were separated yet connected by the cracked paint of the window frame. These details made a transitory stage suffused with pristine light, the same ordinary light that falls into every window on every street.” Along with a prize of €15,000 the Dublin born artist will receive a commission worth €5,000 to produce a new work for the National Portrait Collection.


    Thursday, December 7th, 2023

    The National Gallery of Ireland announced today that it had acquired Titania Enchanting Bottom by Harry Clarke. It is undergoing conservation treatment and will be on display in the New Year. The luminous stained glass panel was sold by Morgan O’Driscoll last October 24 for a hammer price of €160,000. The acquisition was supported by the Patrons of Irish Art of the National Gallery of Ireland. Born in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day in 1889, Harry Clarke is one of Ireland’s best known and most beloved artists. He achieved significant acclaim in his short lifetime, working across different media including book illustration. His principal career was in the production of stained glass windows, mainly for churches and religious houses across Ireland, as well as in the UK, US and Australia. He also produced a small number of secular works in glass. 

    Titania Enchanting Bottom is the only glass work by Clarke that is inspired by Shakespeare. It depicts Act IV, Scene I, from Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Featuring characters from the play including Bottom, Puck, Titania, Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Moth, the work is adorned with botanical elements – a detail typical of Clarke’s work. From 1917 to 1922, Clarke made a unique series of miniature panels inspired by literature – including this one – adapting his talent and passion for book illustration to the medium of stained glass. These panels were set into bespoke cabinets, of which several, including this example, were designed by Dublin-born furniture maker James Hicks (1866-1936). Titania Enchanting Bottom is one of just five panels that survive. At the National Gallery of Ireland, it joins The Song of the Mad Prince (1917) which is on display in Room 20 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1987. These panels are significant to the understanding of Harry Clarke as an artist. They are the forerunners to the The Eve of St Agnes based on the Keats poem and The Geneva Window now at the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami.


    Saturday, October 21st, 2023
    Portrait of Kathleen Behan by Sarah Henrietta Purser (1848-1943), Courtesy National Gallery of Ireland

    Sarah Purser: Private Worlds opens today at the National Gallery of Ireland.  The exhibition explores the private worlds of her female sitters.  There are two portraits of Kathleen Behan (nee Kearney and mother of Brendan) who was one of her favourite sitters.  A highlly accomplished portraitist these pensive, introspective works capture the character of her sitters without leaning into sentimentality. Purser was, in 1924, the first women member elected to the RHA and a founding member of the Friends of the National Collections, Ireland.  The exhibition continues until February 25


    Saturday, October 7th, 2023
    Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) – The Greyhound (Sir Reginald Lister and Eileen Lavery, The last British Minister, the Drawing Room, British Legation, Tangier 1910.  Courtesy NI Ulster Museum Collection.

    Lavery on Location opens in Dublin today as the highlight of the autumn programme at the National Gallery. Organised in collaboration with National Museums, Northern Ireland and National Galleries, Scotland, the focus of the show is on key destinations in Lavery’s art.  These range from Scotland to Palm Springs, France and Tangier.  There are studies from Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and Italy and depictions of cities from Glasgow to London, Venice, Cannes and New York. The not to be missed exhibition at the National Gallery runs until January 14 next.

    Sir John Lavery, (1856-1941) – Lady Lavery in an Evening Cloak. Image, National Gallery of Ireland


    Saturday, July 1st, 2023
    Alice Maher (b.1956) – Self-portrait, 2022
    Charcoal and chalk on paper © Alice Maher. Image, National Gallery of Ireland

    It Took a Century: Women Artists and the RHA opens today at the National Gallery of Ireland. It took a century for the Royal Hibernian Academy to elect the first woman artist, and another century before the first woman President was elected. The exhibition showcases women’s membership of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts from the election in 1923 of the first woman member, Sarah Purser, to the first woman President, Dr Abigail O’Brien, in 2018.

    As part of the RHA bicentenary celebrations the exhibition combines an historic survey of the past 100 years together with a presentation of work by current woman members of the Academy, which has now achieved equitable representation in its membership. The constituent works are drawn almost exclusively from the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts. The show runs until October 2022.


    Thursday, May 4th, 2023
    Lavinia Fontana, Minerva Dressing, 1613. Galleria Borghese, Roma

    Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, the major summer show at the National Gallery of Ireland, runs from May 6 until August 27. The late sixteenth-century Bolognese artist is widely considered to be the first female artist to achieve professional success beyond the confines of a court or a convent. Fontana was the first woman to manage her own workshop, and the first woman to paint public altarpieces and female nudes. She maintained an active career, painting for many illustrious patrons, while also taking on the role of wife and mother.

    The first monographic exhibition to examine Fontana’s work in over two decades, and the first to focus on her portraits the show brings together a selection of her most highly regarded works from international public and private collections, alongside the artist’s celebrated The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, from the Gallery’s own collection. The recent conservation of this Renaissance masterpiece was supported by Bank of America.

    Lavinia Fontana, Self-Portrait at the Virginal, 1577.  Accademia Di San Luca


    Thursday, February 16th, 2023
    JMW TURNER – Story of Apollo and Daphne, exhibited 1837

    The National Gallery of Ireland has announced that over 788,000 visitors were welcomed in 2022, marking the second highest attendance recorded in recent years. In what was a significant re-opening year, following two years of pandemic-related closure, visitor attendance increased by 3.5% compared to that of 2019.  

    In 2022, visitors from Ireland and abroad explored a variety of exhibitions such as Jack B. Yeats: Painting & MemoryGiacometti: From Life, the Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize, and Turner: The Sun is God. Significant new works displayed at the Gallery included Original Sins by Hughie O’Donoghue and Memento Civitatem by Alice Maher and Jamie Murphy.


    Saturday, January 28th, 2023
    Goossen van der Weyden (1455-1543 – Dymphna and her Companions about to Embark © The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp

    A late medieval/Renaissance Flemish altarpiece – the only work of its kind to focus on the life of an Irish saint – goes on display at the National Gallery today.  St. Dymphna, The Tragedy of an Irish Princess by Goossen van der Weyden (1455-1543) dates to 1505.  Dymphna, a legendary 6th or 7th century saint, was the daughter of a Celtic king.  When she grew to resemble her mother her widowed father decided to marry her. To escape his incestuous intentions Dymphna fled Ireland for Geel in Belgium with her confessor Gerebernus.  Dymphna’s father pursued and killed them, their bodies were said to be buried on the spot by angels. The Church of St. Dymphna in Geel still holds relics associated with the saint.  In 2016 the Phoebus Foundation in Antwerp undertook a restoration of the altarpiece featuring scenes from the life of St. Dymphna. It will be on display at the the National Gallery until May 28.


    Tuesday, January 17th, 2023
    James Coleman – Still Life, 2013-2016 (yellow version) Video Installation
    © James Coleman; Courtesy of James Coleman and Marian Goodman Gallery

    A video installation Still Life, 2013-2016 (yellow version), by Roscommon born James Coleman has just opened at the National Gallery of Ireland. A pioneer of lens-based installation art Coleman works primarily in film and slide projection. On view until next October 8 in the Sir Hugh Lane Room it offers a silent, large-scale projection of an uprooted poppy against a black background. One year after its acquisition in February 2022 this is the first display of the work at the Gallery and its first appearance in Ireland. Coleman is recognised internationally for his influence on late-twentieth century conceptual art and represented Ireland at the 1973 Paris Biennale.


    Sunday, January 1st, 2023
    JMW Turner (1775-1851)  The Golden Bough, exhibited 1834.  Courtesy Tate Gallery

    THE 121st annual Turner exhibition which opens on New Year’s Day today at the National Gallery of Ireland wlll be the most exciting yet. It coincides with the magnificent exhibition Turner: The Sun is God which continues at the Gallery until February 6. Right now the National Gallery of Ireland is offering a visual feast of wonderful work by a rare master who was far ahead of his time.  Turner’s art is as contemporary today as when it was painted a couple of centuries ago. An Impressionist 50 years before Impressionism, an abstract artist when abstraction was unknown, Turner as artist and innovator was far ahead of his time. It is always instructive when assessing any art to refer back to the greatest artists by visiting galleries.  They set the benchmark. They did it right. Their work shouts it out when lesser artworks fall short.  Brutal and frustrating as this may be for artists, it is always an important learning oppprtunity. Ask Jackson Pollock, the great mid 20th century American artist who once said memorably: “F… Picasso”.

    JMW Turner, The Schollenen Gorge from the Devil’s Bridge Pass of St. Gotthard 1802.  Courtesy Tate Gallery

    In the world of art everyone, including collectors, needs to keep their eye in. Don’t miss these shows. An appreciation of the fact that great art isn’t easy is an important first step. The Sun is God at the National Gallery is a show to be savoured slowly.  Turner draws the viewer in as he reveals his fascination with the forces of nature, the sun, moon and clouds. This glowing show traces the development of his compositions from early sketches and exploratory ‘colour beginnings’ to finished watercolours, oil paintings and published prints. It covers a range of themes including memory, imagination, nature, light and atmosphere. This unique opportunity to see 89 artworks from the Tate Collection in London never before displayed in Ireland coincides this January with the annual display of Turner watercolours bequeathed in 1900 by the English collector Henry Vaughan.  This year’s selection will include the 31 Vaughan Bequest works, and five additional Turner watercolours, alongside eight of the artist’s much-loved Liber Studiorum prints of landscape and seascape compositions recreated as prints.There is much to celebrate. Turner has always been popular in Ireland. The annual watercolour show had to be cancelled two years ago for the first time in 120 years because of the pandemic.  The show last January was the 120th instead of the 121st.  This year, uniquely, we will get to see Turner twice.