Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ninja visit to the Hugh Lane

Or to give its proper name, The Dublin City Gallery.  I had 30 minutes to kill in that part of town on Tuesday.  I considered browsing in Chapters but since browsing almost always turns into purchasing for me, I thought the gallery would be safer!  It is, of course, free, like most museums and galleries in Dublin, an unsung legacy of British rule.  I just had time to wander through the ground floor gallery which is made up of Impressionist (yay, Monet!) and modern art and the Francis Bacon studio, about which more below.

Here comes the history:
Sir Hugh Lane was Irish, brought up in England, and the nephew of Lady Augusta Gregory (who set up the Abbey).  Around 1901, he got the idea for a gallery of modern painting and set about assembling art for it and campaigning for a location, etc.  To further that aim, he organised the first ever contemporary exhibition of Irish paintings abroad in London, in 1904.  He was also a great collector of Impressionist art, and his collection formed the nucleus of the Hugh Lane gallery.  He did not live to see his ambition achieved in any permanent form: he was killed on the Lusitania when it was torpedoed off Cork in 1915.  Much has been written of the legal wranglings that followed his death between Dublin and London as they fought for control of the continental collection.  Eventually, after court cases, they came to a sharing agreement where the paintings go back and forth between here and the National Gallery in London.  Amongst these is one of my very favourite paintings, Les Parapluies by Renoir.  I didn't see it on Tuesday - and I didn't have time to ask whether it had already returned to London - I thought it was here for a few more years.

Les Parapluies by Auguste Renoir
One of the Gallery's major showpieces is the London studio of Francis Bacon, which was donated by his heir and transported in its entirety to Dublin and opened to the public in 2001.  I have to admit it baffles me.  I'm not a fan of Bacon's work and seeing his ridiculously messy studio just makes me long for Jif or Domestos or something: rather than inspiring me to create art, I just want to clean it.  Despite this, I can appreciate the unique way it is displayed.

Next time, I'll hopefully manage to visit the first floor!  They've got a good bookshop too.

On a side note, and I probably shouldn't highlight this too much but I often hear complaints that Dublin does not have enough (or any) public toilets.  Since galleries and museums are free, it's worth keeping in mind their always shiny clean facilities are conveniently located all over town, and sure stop in for some culture while you're at it!  And if one can have such a thing, my favourites are the National Library's - with beautiful old art nouveau decoration with comfy couches (for no apparent reason).


  1. Really enjoyed reading the notion of a ninja visit.

  2. nice post. thanks.