Charlemont House, the home of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, was commissioned by James Caulfeild (1728-1799), 4th Viscount Charlemont and 1st Earl of Charlemont and built in 1765. In 1746, aged 18, Charlemont went on the grand tour of Europe which was favoured by the aristocracy in the eighteenth century, thus developing his lifelong interest in the Classical arts. A fluent Latin, Italian and French speaker, Charlemont was the first president of the Royal Irish Academy.
In 1763 Charlemont commissioned the young Scottish born architect William Chambers (1723-96), whom he had met in Rome, to design his new town house at the top of Parnell Square, formerly Rutland Square. Because of the smaller scale of investment in Dublin, the squares and streets lacked the uniformity of design found in the grand squares in English cities. However, the design for Charlemont House was unique in that it provided a majestic centrepiece for the streetscape and was unrivalled in Irish Georgian squares.
Charlemont House is limestone-clad and set back from the street, framed by curved walls with rustic details. The house and its interior are designed on strict Classical lines. In 1929 the gardens of the house were built upon to accommodate the Gallery. The refurbishment was carried out by the City Architect, Horace T. O'Rourke. The body of the main house has changed very little, and the upstairs rooms retain some fine fireplaces including one by the renowned Italian craftsman Pietro Bossi.
In 1933 Charlemont House opened as the permanent location of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art. For further information see 'Charlemont House: A Critical History' by Sean O'Reilly in Images and Insights, and in Hugh Lane: Founder of A Gallery of Modern Art for Ireland.