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National Gallery of Ireland

National Gallery of Ireland.

The National Gallery of Ireland (Irish: Gailearaí Náisiúnta na hÉireann) houses the Irish national collection of Irish and European art. It is located in the centre of Dublin with one entrance on Merrion Square, beside Leinster House, and another on Clare Street. Due to ongoing renovations, the Clare Street entrance is the only one currently open. It was founded in 1854 and opened its doors ten years later. The Gallery has an extensive, representative collection of Irish painting and is also notable for its Italian Baroque and Dutch masters painting. The current director is Sean Rainbird. Entry is free.


  • History 1
  • Millennium Wing 2
  • Master Development Plan 3
  • Location, access and facilities 4
  • Highlights 5
    • Spanish 5.1
    • French 5.2
    • Italian 5.3
    • German and Swiss 5.4
    • Flemish 5.5
    • Dutch 5.6
    • British and American 5.7
    • Irish 5.8
    • The Yeats Collection 5.9
    • Drawings and watercolours 5.10
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In 1853 an exhibition, the William Dargan. The enthusiasm of the visiting crowds demonstrated a public for art, and it was decided to establish a permanent public art collection as a lasting monument of gratitude to Dargan. The moving spirit behind the proposal was the barrister John Edward Pigot (1822-1871), son of David Richard Pigot, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, and he became the of the first Governors of the Gallery. [1] The façade of the National Gallery copies the Natural History building of the National Museum of Ireland which was already planned for the facing flank of Leinster House. The building itself was designed by Francis Fowke, based on early plans by Charles Lanyon, and was completed in 1864.

The Gallery was unlucky not to have been founded around an existing collection, but through diligent and skilful purchase, by the time it opened it had 125 paintings. In 1866 an annual purchase grant was established and by 1891 space was already limited. In 1897, the Dowager Countess of Milltown indicated her intention of donating the contents of Russborough House to the Gallery. This gift included about 20000 paintings and prompted construction from 1899 to 1903 of what is now called the Milltown Wing, designed by Thomas Newenham Deane.

At around this time Henry Vaughan left 31 watercolours by J.M.W. Turner with the requirement that they could only be exhibited in January, this to protect them from the ill-effects of sunlight. Though modern lighting technology has made this stipulation unnecessary, the Gallery continues to restrict viewing of the Vaughan bequest to January and the exhibition is treated as something of an occasion.

Another substantial bequest came with the untimely death in the sinking of the George Bernard Shaw also made a substantial bequest, leaving the Gallery a third of royalties of his estate in gratitude for the time he spent there as a youth.

The Gallery was again extended in 1962 with a new wing designed by Frank DuBerry of the Office of Public Works. This opened in 1968 and is now named the Beit Wing. In 1978 the Gallery received from the government the paintings given to the nation by Chester Beatty and in 1987 the Sweeney bequest brought fourteen works of art including paintings by Picasso and Jack B. Yeats. The same year the Gallery was once again given some of the contents of Russborough House when Alfred Beit donated 17 masterpieces, including paintings by Velázquez, Murillo, Steen, Vermeer and Raeburn.

In the 1990s a lost Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, known through replicas, was discovered hanging in a Jesuit house of studies in Leeson Street in Dublin by Sergio Benedetti, senior conservator of the gallery. The Jesuits have generously allowed this painting to be exhibited in the Gallery and the discovery was the cause of national excitement. The painting was on loan to an Italian gallery from February until July 2010 as part of Caravaggio's 400th anniversary. In 1997 Anne Yeats donated sketchbooks by her uncle Jack Yeats and the Gallery now includes a Yeats Museum. Denis Mahon, a well known art critic, promised the Gallery part of his rich collection and eight painting from his promised bequest are on permanent display, including Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph by Guercino.

The Directors of the Gallery have been: James White, 1964–80; Homan Potterton, 1980–88; Raymond Keaveney, 1988-2012; Sean Rainbird, 2012-present.

Millennium Wing

A new wing, called the Millennium Wing, was opened in 2002. Unlike the previous two extensions, this new wing has street frontage and the English architects Benson & Forsyth gave it an imposing Bowers Whitbed, Portland Stone façade and grand atrium. The design originally involved demolishing an adjoining Georgian terrace house and its ballroom mews; however, the Irish planning appeals authority, An Bord Pleanála, required that they be retained. The Millennium Wing is not without its critics: it is unforgiving of poor maintenance and the compromise in the design as required by An Bord Pleanala resulted in a final design diluted from the original competition winning building concept. The circulation space also lacks clarity, but it is generally considered that these flaws are trivial details set against the drama of the building. In line with its Brutalist style, the interior concrete walls are still unsealed.

Master Development Plan

In March 2011, the Office of Public Works (OPW) commenced work on the Gallery’s historic complex at Merrion Square to address a critical need for the repair and renovation of the existing building fabric. The first phase of the works programme, which involved the removal and replacement of the Dargan Wing roof, is now complete. The next two phases of the project will involve the redesign and replacement of the Milltown Wing roof, followed by an extensive upgrade of the fabric and services of the buildings. Refurbishment of the two wings is scheduled to be completed by 2016. A small display providing an architectural overview of the gallery is now open in the Beit wing in Room 13A.

Location, access and facilities

The National Gallery of Ireland is located in the heart of Georgian Dublin. There are two entrances, one at Merrion Square and the other at Clare Street. The Merrion Square entrance is closed during renovations. Admission to the gallery is free and many talks, tours and events as well as the audioguide are also free of charge. The gallery launched a free smartphone app in 2013.

Dublin Bus routes 4, 7, 8, 39a and 46a all pass by the gallery. The Pearse Street DART station is 5 minutes on foot as is the Saint Stephen's Green stop on the green line of the LUAS. The Abbey Street stop of the red line of the LUAS is a 20-minute walk away. There are two dublinbikes stations just outside the gallery, one at Clare Street and the other at Merrion Square West.

All galleries and entrances are wheelchair and buggy accessible and there are disabled parking spaces outside the Merrion Square entrance. Tours for the visually and hearing impaired are regularly organised. Visitors with guide dogs are welcome in the gallery. The lecture theatre, AV room and gallery shop are all fitted with a loop system for the hearing impaired.


The collection has about 14,000 artworks, including about 2,500 oil paintings, 5,000 drawings, 5,000 prints, and some sculpture, furniture and other works of art.




Caravaggio The Taking of Christ 1602
  • Master of Verucchio (14th century) The Crucifixion, Noli me tangere c.1330–40
  • Fra Angelico (1417–55) Sts Cosmas and Damian and their Brothers surviving the Stake c.1440–42
  • Zanobi Strozzi (attribute to) (1412–68) Assumption of the Virgin with Sts Jerome and Francis 1460s
  • Filippino Lippi (1457–1504) Portrait of a Musician late 1480s
  • Titian (c.1485/90–1576) Ecce Homo c.1558/60
  • Giovan Battista Moroni (before 1524–1578) Portrait of a Gentleman and his two Children c.1570
  • Caravaggio (1571–1610) The Taking of Christ 1602
  • Guido Reni (1575–1624) The Suicide of Cleopatra c.1639–40
  • Domenichino (1581–1641) Saint Mary Magdalene c.1625
  • Guercino (1591–1666) Jacob blessing the Sons of Jacob c.1620
  • Sassoferrato (1609–85) Virgin and Child 1630s
  • Luca Giordano (1634–1705) Venus, Mars and the Forge of Vulcan 1660s
  • Carlo Maratta (1625–1713) The Rape of Europa c.1680–5
  • Francesco Solimena (1657–1747) Allegory of Winter c.1690
  • Canaletto (1697–1768) St. Mark's Square c.1756
  • (Ugolino di Nerio(early 14th Century)"Prophet Isaiah"and *(Paolo Uccello)(1397-1475)"Virgin and Child"

German and Swiss



Johannes Vermeer Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid c.1670

British and American

  • William Hogarth (1697–1764)
    • The Western Family c.1738
    • The Mackinen Children c.1747
  • Thomas Gainsborough 1727–88
    • A view in Suffolk c.1746
    • Mrs Christopher Horton (1743–1808) later Duchess of Cumberland 1766
    • The Cottage Girl 1785
  • Joshua Reynolds (1723–92)
    • Parody of Raphael's 'School of Athens' 1751
    • The Temple Family 1780–82
    • Omai 1776 (On loan from a private collection)
    • Charles Coote, The First Earl of Bellamont 1776
  • Henry Raeburn (1756–1823) Sir John and Lady Clerk of Penicuik 1791
  • John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) The Bead Stringers of Venice 1880–82
  • Stanley Royle (1888–1961) The Goose Girl c.1921
  • Francis Wheatley (1747–1801) The Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 4 November 1779 1779–80
  • Andrew Festing (1981–present)


The Marriage of Aoife and Strongbow (1854) by Daniel Maclise, a romanticised depiction of the marriage of Aoife MacMurrough in 1170
Augustus Nicholas Burke Connemara Girl

The Yeats Collection

  • Jack B. Yeats (1871–1957)
    • Bachelor's Walk, in Memory 1915 (On loan from a private collection)[2]
    • The Liffey Swim 1923
    • A Morning in a City 1937
    • Grief 1952
  • John Butler Yeats (1839–1922) John O'Leary 1904

Drawings and watercolours

See also


  1. ^ National Gallery of Ireland Act 1854 section 7.
  2. ^
  • Raymond Keaveney (2002), The National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide. London: Scala Publishers. ISBN 1-85759-267-0
  • Homan Potterton (2003), The National Gallery of Ireland in Brian Lalor (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-3000-2
  • Homan Potterton, Introduction to National Gallery of Ireland: Illustrated Summary Catalogue of Paintings. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 0-7171-1145-8

External links

  • National Gallery of Ireland website
  • The Millennium Wing on

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