Strokestown House, Co. Roscommon
Elizabeth Bowen wrote in Bowen’s Court that Ireland is a country of ruins that “feature the landscape” whether “Lordly or humble, military or domestic, standing up with furious gauntness… or shelving weakly into the soil”. She saw in them an implicit truth: “a ruin stands for either error or failure, and in this country are accepted as part of life”. The desolation of country houses and their demesnes would, by then end of the 20th century, become an all too familiar part of the Irish scenery: miles of crumbling stone walls interrupted by the casual insertion of bungalows, abused entrances with toppled piers and twisted ironwork, bramble engulfed lodges,, deeply-rutted carriage drives leading aimlessly through a wasted park, amidst a few bereft resilient trees— looked upon forlornly by the gutted house, a still-proud block staring, blindly out over the scene “in fright and amazement at the wide light, lovely, unloving country, the unwilling bosom whereon it was set”.
Robert Crone, A Landscape and Figures, 1770. Private Collection.
Robert Crone (1718-1779) was born in Dublin around 1740. He trained under Robert West in the George's Lane School in Dublin as well as being a pupil of Robert Hunter. In 1758, he was sent to Italy to study and he thrived in Rome, producing art and procuring prints for Dublin collectors and connoisseurs. He settled in London in 1767, where he regularly contributed to the Royal Academy. However, he only submitted a single piece to the Society of Artists of Ireland during the 1770 show, he exhibited A Landscape and Figures. Crone was apparently disfigured and suffered from epilepsy which affected his health and slowed his career, leading to a premature death in 1779.
On 15 May the City Assembly House was full to capacity for a twenty-first birthday party for Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, the Journal of the Irish Georgian Society. Another exciting volume under the editorship of Prof. Finola O’Kane was launched by Prof. Andrew Carpenter, founding editor of Eighteenth Century Ireland and general editor of the five-volume Art and Architecture of Ireland published in 2014.
The Irish Georgian Society has been publishing research on Ireland’s art and architecture from close to its inception in 1958, initially through its Quarterly Bulletin. In the first volume of IA&DS, Desmond Guinness, co-founder of the Society, told the story of how the bulletin’s much-loved design was, rather serendipitously, arrived at:
Samuel Dixon, Twelve Prints of ‘Foreign and Domestick’ Birds, Gouache on embossed paper in original black lacquer and gilded pearwood frames, Collection of IGS President.
Samuel Dixon was renowned for his embossed images of birds and fowers. He designed, produced and sold from his shop in Capel street from the late 1740s on. He created the works by impressing images on larges sheets of card paper using copper plates. This caused the details to stand in relief and the images were then hand coloured by Dixon's apprentices, most of whom would go to become successful artists and members of the Society of Artists, like Daniel O'Keefe and Gustavus Hamilton.
In a submission to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the IGS raised its concerns about a proposal to redevelop the gardens and grounds of Dalguise House, a protected structure, due to the consequent irretrievable loss of one of the largest surviving nineteenth-century gardens in south County Dublin.
Dalguise House, a five bay two storey over basement suburban villa, is set within extensive gardens and is approached by an avenue along which lie two gate lodges. An accompanying conservation report notes that the grounds include “lawns and paddocks, a stable yard and former stable building, a large though disused walled garden, glasshouses/greenhouses and sundry out offices in a poor state of repair, a tennis court, and numerous areas of established tree and shrub planting”.
Curator Ruth Kenny looking at the completed exhibition
The Irish Georgian Society’s move to the City Assembly House in 2010, and their complete renovation of the building brought with it an exciting and unprecedented opportunity to recreate a seminal moment in the history of Irish art; the introduction of large-scale public art exhibitions. Celebrating the building’s original incarnation as the first purpose-built public art gallery in Britain and Ireland, an exhibition was planned which that would reassemble some of its the gallery’s earliest exhibits in the octagonal exhibition room in which they were first displayed (now known as the Knight of Glin Exhibition Room).