Coming Home: Art & The Great Hunger at Dublin Castle

Coming Home:-Art and the Great Hunger, is a poignant and striking exhibition of historical and contemporary art and sculpture relating to the Great Irish Famine which has just opened in Dublin Castle.

The works on show are part of the acclaimed art collection from the Great Hunger Museum in Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut which has generously agreed to give Irish people an over the coming months an opportunity to see work from this unique collection.

“Cottage: Achill Island”The exhibition is well worth a visit to see how some of Ireland’s foremost artists and sculptors reflected on Ireland before, during and after the Great Irish Famine. From the landscapes of Jack B Yeats, Alexander Williams and William Crozier, to the illustrations of James Mahoney, the  thought provoking  paintings of Michael Farrell and Lillian Lucy Davidson, and the haunting sculptures of Rowan Gillespie, John Coll,  John Behan and Margaret Lyster Chamberlain.

“The Leave-Taking”President Michael D Higgins opened the exhibition which was curated by Prof Niamh O’Sullivan.

This is a must see exhibition for anyone with an interest in art or history. I found myself both moved and provoked by the artist’s interpretation of the effect of Ireland’s Great Famine on our people. It is highly recommended for students, and older children. I will certainly return  to see it.

Coming Home: Art & The Great Hunger is on at:

The Coach House in Dublin Castle until 30th June 2018.

The Uililinn- West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen on 20 July – 13th October 2018

The Glassworks in Derry 18th January -16th March 2019.


The Irish PEN Dinner and Award 2018

The Irish PEN Dinner and Award 2018

Great to meet so many of my friends from Irish PEN at this year’s dinner and presentation of the Irish PEN Award at The Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

It is always a very special night to have so many writers gather to enjoy dinner and drinks and to honour a fellow writer in this beautiful old club.

This years’ very worthy winner of ‘The Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Literature’ is Anne Enright. As a  writer Anne  has achieved so much in terms of her work which includes , ‘The Green Road, The Portable Virgin’ and  her Man Booker award winning novel ’The Gathering’.  Anne has just finished up her term as the inaugural Laureate of Irish fiction.

The chairperson of Irish Pen Vanessa O’Loughlin presented Anne with the award.

June Considine of WORDS Ireland in her speech reminded all of us present of the imprisoned writers, an empty chair was positioned at the dinner to remember all of those, whose writing and words had led to their loss of freedom.


Frederic W. Burton at The National Gallery


Frederic W. Burton


The National Gallery’s ‘For the Love of Art’ is the fascinating exhibition of the work of Frederic W. Burton the renowned Irish artist. His painting of ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ (1864) which is based on a Danish ballad, has become one of Ireland’s best loved works of art but it is great to get the opportunity to see so much of his other work.

I have to admit a huge interest in Frederic as he was Isabella Gifford (nee Burton’s) uncle and had generously helped to support the family following her father’s death. Three of her children Gabriel, Ada and Grace Gifford would follow their grand -uncle and work as artists. I was curious about the man and this exhibition certainly surprised me as it gave a very clear picture of the range of his work and his huge contribution to Irish Art.

From his early watercolours of the landscapes of Connemara and Kerry and the West of Ireland and inhis fine sketches and portraits of local fishermen and their families, Frederic Burton managed to capture a unique part of Ireland’s culture. He loved to travel and over the years many of his works were inspired by legends and stories which he heard.

His painting of ‘The Blind Girl at the Holy Well’ (1840) was widely praised at exhibitions both in Ireland and England and became a hugely popular print of Victorian time.

Frederic Burton was a great observer and in ‘The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child’ managed to contrast the darkness with the bright coloured clothing of the grieving people.

Alongside many of his better known works, his preliminary work and sketches are displayed which shows us how he built up his watercolours and final painting.

meeting on the turret stairs


His use of colour which was demonstrated so well in ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand’ is shown to huge effect in one his portrait of Mrs George Smith. Using only watercolours and gouache, he exactly caught the rich colours of the Kimono shawl worn by Mrs Smith, which bright as ever, is also on display.

His painting career ended when he accepted the prestigious position of Director of The National Gallery in London, as he devoted himself to expanding the gallery and its collection. He was rewarded with a knighthood from Queen Victoria.

Alongside 70 works of art by Burton are works by some of his fellow artists and some of his personal effects. It is great to see our National Gallery honouring the lifetime achievement of Frederic W Burton, one of our finest artists.

william dargon jpeg

William Dargan



I had not visited the National Gallery since its re-opening following the recent refurbishment and upgrade of the Dargan and Milltown Wing. I took the chance to have a walk around the fantastic new light filled courtyard designed by Heneghan Peng and see the beautiful new atrium and corridor which links parts of the gallery and creates bright new spaces. My only disappointment was to see that the statue on the front lawn of William Dargan, the generous man who helped to establish the National Gallery, seems to have been overlooked during all the refurbishment!