During the first afternoon of my recent stay in Dublin I decided to visit the Hugh Lane Gallery, the Dublin City Gallery. It’s something of a secret with far fewer visitors than the National Art Gallery even though it has an excellent collection of art from the late 19th Century onwards. I think this is partly because it’s a little off the beaten track, on the far side of Parnell Square at the top of O’Connell Street, but also because they don’t seem to publicise themselves at all.
During my visit I did my usual trick of going around the gallery quickly before deciding what to go back and see in more detail, in this case after I’d had a bite to eat in their rather nice cafe. So what did I concentrate on? Well the marvellous Harry Clarke stained glass, their collection of major Impressionist paintings – Manet’s large portrait of Eva Gonzalez, Renoir’s Les Parapluies, Monet’s Waterloo bridge and their Berthe Morisot’s Jour d’Été. And some favourite paintings by Irish artists including Camille Souter, Patrick Campbell, William Scott and Isolated Being, a really haunting painting by Louis Lebroquy.
I’m beginning to take more of an interest in video works. Although I often find them pretentious and incomprehensible, over the past few years I’ve discovered a number of works that I’ve found interesting, amusing and/or stimulating. One such example being shown in the Hugh Lane was The dene ”vignette" by a young Irish artist, Niamh O’Malley. She had filmed corner of a park with people walking through it and superimposed a painting of the scene on it. It reminded me of some recent works by David Hockney that I’ve seen where he overdraws on scenes he photographs.
There were relatively few visitors while I was there – at times it almost seemed that I had the place to myself. Perhaps I shouldn’t publicise it and keep it as a secret known only to a select few – but that would be selfish. And I’m not the only one for whom it’s a favourite – Redhenrun is a fan as well and has written an excellent post about the gallery and it’s history. She tells of how its foundation was supported by the Trade Union leader Jim Larkin while opposed by William Martin Murphy, the leader of the employers during the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. Another good reason for the Gallery to have a place in my affections.