I don't need an excuse to visit my favourite gallery in Dublin, but this centenary exhibition provided one. For those unfamiliar with the Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, an introduction may be necessary. The collector and dealer Hugh Lane was the driving force behind the establishment of what is claimed to be the world's oldest modern art gallery.
When it opened in January 1908 (at a temporary site), the gallery had 300 works of art on display. Lane later withdrew 39 works when the council failed to provide a permanent home for his collection. He then bequeathed the works to London's National Gallery, but later relented and wrote a codicil that caused no end of trouble after his death in 1915. Cue years of legal wrangling, resulting in an eventual compromise. This show couldn't have taken place without the continuing cooperation of the two institutions.
This is a delightful show, with several highlights, a few old friends and some unfamiliar faces. Many of the works here were on view when the gallery first opened, which provides an idea of what the modern art lover of 1908 would have seen. There are works by Manet, Corot, Courbet, Lavery, Morisot and Osborne. Also showing for the first time in 100 years are the 39 paintings withdrawn by Lane in 1908.
One of these is Manet's Eva Gonzales, here hung adjacent to William Orpen's Homage to Manet, in which Eva Gonzales is reproduced. Hugh Lane is also depicted in the painting. I am always amused by Manet's depiction of Gonzales seated at an easel, paint brushes in hand and wearing a beautiful white dress. The dress is impractical attire for an artist, but I suppose that was the point: he painted her as an attractive woman first, and as an artist in her own right second.
Renoir's Les Parapluies is my personal favourite. I was pleased, too, to come across three of Max Beerbohm's drawings, particularly Sir Hugh Lane Producing Masterpieces for Dublin. This depicts Lane pulling paintings out of a hat in the style of a conjurer, an apt metaphor for his amazing achievement. This is a great exhibition and a historical event, so do see it if you are in Dublin this summer.
To 28 Sept (00 353 1222 5550; www.hughlane.ie)
Christine Mills, senior bookseller, Dun Laoghaire
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