Attributed to Steven van der Meulen (fl.1543-1563/64), "Portrait of Thomas Butler", 10th Earl of Ormonde (1532-1614), 1560s . Purchased, Sotheby’s, London , 2000. Photo: ©National Gallery of Ireland
DUBLIN.- A decade of acquisitions at the National Gallery of Ireland will be showcased in an exhibition demonstrating the development and enhancement to the European and Irish collections. Taking Stock: Acquisitions 2000-2010 will bring together over 100 paintings, prints and drawings reflecting the different areas of the Gallery´s collection. It will feature additions by notable European masters, dating from the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century, among them Guercino, Boucher, van Gogh, Renoir, Bonnard, Pechstein and Feininger, complemented by a range of important works by many of the most sought-after Irish artists, Thomas Roberts, John Lavery, William Orpen, Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and William Scott. On view in the Beit Wing and the Print Gallery from 13 March to 25 July 2010, the exhibition is the first major show dedicated to acquisitions since 1988.
"In recent years, there has been a focus on strengthening the area of the collection dating to post 1870 a period in which the Gallery was perceived to be weakest", says Raymond Keaveney, Director of the Gallery. To this end, the Gallery has been fortunate in acquiring works by Pierre Bonnard, Gustave Caillebotte, Hermann Max Pechstein, Gabriele MÃ¼nter and the American-born artist, Lyonel Feininger, whose striking composition, Umpferstedt III (1919) will be on view for the first time since it was acquired in New York , in 2008.
Though the Gallery is known for its exceptional collection of European masters, the Irish collection has matured significantly over the past decade with the purchase of outstanding paintings and drawings many of which will be featured in the Gallery´s show: Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Cupid and Psyche, (c.1792), which is a study in pen and ink for the famous oil painting in the Gallery; Adam Buck, Portrait of the Edgeworth Family of County Longford (1787); Daniel Maclise, Portrait of John Francis Maguire (1827); Paul Henry, A Connemara Village (1933-34); Mainie Jellett, Single Element (1927); George Collie, The Midday Meal (c.1927). The exhibition will also feature a number of works by William Orpen including Lady with a Birdcage (1900-1905); his study for the Western Wedding (c.1914), and more recently his portrait of the famous tenor, Count John McCormack (1914), which was purchased in 2009 in London . Most recently the Gallery purchased a key work by William Scott, Frying Pan, Eggs and Napkin (1950), representing the second from his oeuvre to enter the collection.
"It is incontestable that most of the Gallery´s greatest treasures have been acquired by way of gift", says Raymond Keaveney. As this exhibition will demonstrate, the generosity of benefactors and patrons continue to be instrumental in contributing important works to the collection. In this context, it is worth noting that on view in this exhibition will be one of the first paintings purchased by Sir Denis Mahon in 1934, Guercino´s Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph (1620), which is one of eight wonderful Baroque canvases gifted to the Gallery in the late 1990s. Another distinguished benefactor was Lady Clementine Beit, who, in 2000, presented JMW Turnerâ€™s beautiful watercolour, The Castellated Rhine (c.1837).
The exhibition will show how the introduction of tax incentives benefited the collection since the turn of the Millennium. Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act (1997), in addition to the capital fund established under the Heritage Fund (2001), contributed significantly to the collection: "The availability of tax relief has made it possible to recover important items of our national patrimony which left the country in years gone by due to economic and other pressures on the original owners," says Raymond Keaveney.
Among the most significant works acquired under these tax schemes were Louis le Brocquy´s A Family (1951) which was exhibited at the Venice Bienale in 1956; two marvellous paintings by Dutch seventeenth-century artists, Gerard van Honthorst, A Musical Party (1615-18) and Aelbert Cuyp, Landscape with a Portrait of a Youth and a Tutor on Horseback (c.1650-52), which historically belonged to Lord Charlemont and the Duke of Leinster respectively. This was followed in 2007 by the gift of a rare Irish family group portrait of the Fitzgeralds of Turlough, Co. Mayo (1784) by the Flemish artist Johann Zoffany.