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MORE POWER TO YOU: Sarah Purser: A Force for Irish Art

Sarah Purser, Detail from 'Portrait Study' c. 1895. Collection & image © Hugh Lane Gallery

  • Exhibitions

10 July 2024 – 5 January 2025

Admission Free

Sarah Purser, Detail from 'Portrait Study' c. 1895. Collection & image © Hugh Lane Gallery

MORE POWER TO YOU: Sarah Purser: A Force for Irish Art celebrates Sarah Purser, an indomitable figure in Irish art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition examines Purser’s multifaceted role as artist, activist and collector.

Sarah Purser (1848 – 1943) was a hugely influential figure in Irish artistic circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both as an artist and as an organiser. She played an important role in the founding of Hugh Lane Gallery and helped secure Charlemont House as the gallery’s permanent home. This exhibition highlights the significance of her work as an artist, collector and activist. It also marks the centenary of the founding of the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, which Purser established in 1924.

Sarah Purser was born in 1848 in Dún Laoghaire and studied in Switzerland, Dublin and Paris, where she studied at the Académie Julian. On her return to Dublin, she established herself as one of the leading portraitists in the city. Hugh Lane Gallery has a fine collection of her work, with sensitive portraits of Jane Barlow, Edward Martyn, Maud Gonne and W. B. Yeats along with the figure studies, Portrait Study, Mother and Child and Painting of a Woman.

Purser was an active collector of other artist’s work, which hung in the rooms of her home, Mespil House. She donated drawings by Sir John Everett Millais to the gallery and numerous works from her collection were given posthumously in her memory through the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland. These include a watercolour by Berthe Morisot, stained glass by Wilhelmina Geddes, and paintings by Ernest Quost, Jean Souverbie, Maurice de Vlaminck and Bernard Albertini.

Sarah Purser was an energetic advocate for the visual arts in Ireland throughout her life. Her home at Mespil House was a meeting place for various cultural figures, especially on her “Second Tuesday” gatherings. She founded the stained glass studio, An Túr Gloine, which was instrumental in the resurgence of that medium in Ireland. She was an active exhibition organiser. She arranged the 1901 exhibition by Nathaniel Hone and John Butler Yeats that was a catalyst for Hugh Lane’s interest in modern art, which in turn led to the founding of this gallery. Later, she secured Charlemont House as the permanent home for Hugh Lane Gallery. With her cousin, she endowed the Griffith-Purser lectures in the history of European painting at UCD and TCD. In 1924, she founded the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, which has since donated 150 works to the gallery.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with texts by Roy Foster, Hilary Pyle, Hannah Baker, Robert O’Byrne, David Caron, Logan Sisley and Barbara Dawson.

 

 

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The Eve of St Agnes Harry Clarke 1924