Monday, September 29, 2008


Yesterday I went to the Hugh Lane Gallery to see some art. There is a long and complicated story about the Hugh Lane Gallery's collection – its original core collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works were part of a bequest from collector Hugh Lane, but ownership of these is shared between the Hugh Lane Gallery and some museum in London. The paintings tend to flit backwards and forwards across the Irish Sea, with some always being in each of the museums. For a limited period ending today, however, the whole bequest was in Dublin, and I popped down to see the lot in its entirety.

The stars of the collection are probably Renoir's Les Parapluies and Monet's Waterloo Bridge. The Renoir piece is a particular favourite, one I am always happy to see again. With it, I always remember not so much the umbrellas as the little girl on the right, and the attractive black clad woman on the left (and the leering bearded bloke behind her). All human life is here.

There were some striking other paintings I had not noticed before. Many of these were by some fellow called Antonio Mancini. His pictures were odd, in that when first seen they often looked a bit meh, but they would be very impressive when seen across a room rather than in close up. This was especially true of a portrait of Hugh Lane's sister and another of Lady Gregory. Close up, these works seemed too obviously paint on canvas, but from a distance they coalesced into strangely compelling image.

I was also struck by a picture painted by Augustus John. As you know, this painter would get up on a slow dog, and reputedly had so many illegitimate children that he would pat any child he passed on the head just to be on the safe side. The particular picture shows two women and four or five children. The women are John's wife and the woman he married after her death. The children are all John's, though the notes did not see who their mothers were. What really struck me about this was how demonic two of the children were… they looked like changelings, or the results of an obscene union between a woman and The Devil. I wonder could SATAN have been jazzing Augustus John's ladies behind his back? I think that it would be foolish to discount the possibility.

There were lots of other nice pictures, though none about which so much can be said.

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