The Collection Revealed: The Perceptive Eye: Artists Observing Artists (Edited by Jessica O'Donnell)
The Collection Revealed is an innovative new series which encourages appreciation of, and participation in, modern and contemporary art as well as offering the opportunity for revealing many hidden gems from the Gallery’s permanent collection.
The Perceptive Eye: Artists Observing Artists is the third exhibition in this series drawn from the prodigious collection of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and showcases rarely seen portraits of artists by artists, offering fascinating insights into how artists portray themselves and how they themselves are perceived. While portraiture could traditionally provide a way for an artist to earn a good living, most of the works on view here were not made as a result of a commission and they often reveal more than just a likeness. They are reflective of an instinctive urge to articulate a feeling, to record a friendship, to investigate form or to comment on status.Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862) by Edouard Manet, acquired by Hugh Lane for this gallery, is a revolutionary painting of contemporary life and a spectacular group portrait which includes Manet himself as well as poets, painters, writers, composers, family and friends of the artist. Francis Bacon’s final unfinished Self Portrait (1992) found on the easel in his legendary Reece Mews Studio is one of seven unfinished paintings by Bacon in our Collection which offer crucial insights into the artist’s methods. It is indicative of the unceasing exploration of the human figure by an artist then over eighty years old. Harry Clarke’s wonderfully intense ink study of himself is an intriguing companion to his ‘hidden’ self portrait in the frieze of his masterpiece The Eve of St Agnes on view in our stained glass room on the ground floor. Not all of the works are self portraits. Mary Swanzy’s painting of Sarah Purser and Charles Francois Daubigny’s portrait of Honore Daumier, for example, are records of great friendships and artistic solidarity. On other occasions artists are portrayed at work in their distinct studio spaces or with the materials - palettes, brushes, easels or chisels - of their craft. Both of Robert Ballagh’s works intriguingly avoid capturing a likeness of the artist. His Self Portrait (1969) explores the de-humanizing effects of economic and political systems on the individual in society while his painting No. 3 (1977) explores the status of the artist in Ireland at that time.
Brian Maguire has consistently used portraiture to express social and political concerns and the isolation of the individual in society. Self Portrait (2009)was painted in response to Rebeca another of his own works made in the context of the endemic Femicide in northern Mexico of the last two decades. Contemplating the horror of this, the artist questions how it could possibly happen. But as Maguire himself has said: ‘Self-portraits are usually questions with no answers.’
This fully illustrated 56 page book with texts by Barbara Dawson, Jessica O'Donnell, brian Bourke, Brian Maguire, Robert Ballagh, Michael Cullen, Charles Cullen and Alice Maher is available from the Gallery Bookshop, tel. +353 1 8734216.