I was at the Varnishing Day of the annual Royal Hibernian Academy's exhibition this afternoon. The Varnishing Day is an old term and today means something like a preview does in the theatre. The official opening is tomorrow and the exhibition continues until 17th August.
If you know nothing about the RHA, then let me give you a potted history. They were founded by royal charter in 1821 with the express purpose of holding an annual exhibition of works by members of the Society of Artists. William Ashford, probably still today counted amongst the finest painters we ever produced, was their first president and he is commemorated by having a room named for him in the purpose-built gallery, which now stands on Ely Place, the original premises on Abbey St having been destroyed in the Rising. The RHA engages in education for both children and adults, and maintains a large art library and archive.
Over half the works being shown are selected through open submission, for which anyone may apply. Other works are selected by the committee and you will see many artists with the initials "RHA" after their names. The current list includes some of the foremost Irish artists today.
Entry to the exhibition is entirely free and most of the works on show are for sale, though many will be bought today, and tomorrow at the official opening. I liked a lot of what I saw today, as well as engaging in a healthy amount of "I could have done that myself". One prominently placed painting looked like a slice of toast to me but when I read the label discovered it was an open space and field. That's me told!