The History of Irish Art

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When exploring the world of art, it’s not unusual for a certain style or artist to strike a chord, meaning that we end up exploring more of what we enjoy. Irish art has been popular for centuries, and it’s not hard to see why.

Regardless of whether artists are using the scenic landscapes or the conflict that has occurred as an inspiration, Ireland is able to offer a series of visual masterpieces and artists that each come with their own undertone of history.

The Raw Beginnings

Even before the Current Era, Irish art became to take shape in the guise of Neolithic stone carvings that were built between c. 3300 – 2900 BCE. The Bronze age introduced pottery as well as the Celtic influence becoming evident with blacksmiths.

The 18th century became a popular time for portrait painting landscapes. Although a vast majority of artists went unrecognised during this era, there were some that stood out and have gone onto produce some collectable pieces.

Garret Morphy had been popular towards the end of the 17th century for his portrait paintings, followed by the Dublin-born James Latham. Although there is no documented evidence regarding Morphy’s training, English politician Walter Strickland that he was responsible for the portrait of Archbishop Oliver Plunkett.

Those popular within the landscaping painting scenes included Susanna Drury, famed for her watercolour interpretation of the Giant’s Causeway. and John Butts who was renowned for his representations of the wild scenes of Cork.

Later, artists would make an impact in the art world, such as James Malton who was famed or his works based on the views of Dublin

The Rise of Indigenous Art in the 20th Century

Education partnered with Dublin patronage saw the rise of the indigenous artists in the 20th century, such as George AE Russell and Sean Keating, who won the RDS Taylor award with his works entitled ‘The Reconciliation.’

William Orpen was a prolific artist sent by Britain to the Western Front to paint pictures of soldiers and German prisoners of war as well as generals and politicians. These works were donated to the British Government and are now part of the Imperial War Museum.

The Irish art scene flourished in the 20th Century with home-grown artists such as James McKendry and Sam McLarnon becoming internationally renowned.

Even echoes of the recent past are breathing new life into the art scene. Photographs that show Ireland during its changing values in the 1980’s taken by photographer have recently been part of a showcase at the Roscommon Arts Centre.

More recently, a new breed of Irish artist has entered the fold. Joe Scullion is a Dublin-based artist who creates dream-like art and has enjoyed two solo shows, held at the Talbot Gallery in Dublin 1 and the Settle at Rua Red in Tallaght.

Irish art can offer a whole new insight to what’s available for collectors. Regardless of whether you’re looking at a bygone era, or concentrating on the modern artists, there will be something for every palette.