National Gallery of Ireland (2)

In the afternoon, I had no time to linger, only to whip through the Old Master galleries and enjoy a small number of things, including a limewood carving of John the Evangelist by Ligier Richier, a French sculptor:-

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The galleries are in remarkably good order after what was apparently a long renovation project (7 years at a cost of c.€30M) overseen by Heneghan Peng.

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Royal Hibernian Academy

The reason I was in Dublin is that I was attending a meeting at the Royal Hibernian Academy, our sister Academy across the Irish Sea.   It has a parallel history:  founded on 5 August 1823 as a result of thirty artists petitioning government to obtain a charter of incorporation, it is still more tied into government than the RA – it has to seek government approval for changes to its Laws (it still only has 35 members, plus ten Associates) and its exhibition programme is part funded by the Irish Arts Council (ours isn’t).   It lost its original building, Academy House, in Lower Abbey Street as a result of a fire during the 1916 Easter Uprising.   In 1939, it acquired a grand neo-Tudor house in Ely Place, which was demolished, to be replaced by a new building designed by Raymond McGrath, the Australian architect, who was elected as a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, remodelled ‘Finella’ for Mansfield Forbes, worked with Wells Coates and Serge Chermayeff on the interiors of Broadcasting House, before applying after the war to be Senior Architect in the Office of Irish Public Works.   The Royal Hibernian Academy is his most substantial surviving building, with fine upstairs, daylit galleries, only completed in 1989:-

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And a very active set of studios on the top floor, used for life drawing:-

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National Gallery of Ireland (1)

I spent the morning in the National Gallery of Ireland, admiring its fine collection of eighteenth-century paintings and being reminded how many prominent artists working in London were Irish, including George Barret RA, one of the founders of the Royal Academy, James Barry RA, one of only two artists to be expelled, Nathaniel Hone RA, another of the founders, and Francis Wheatley RA.

I admired Reynolds’s early parody of the School of Athens, when he was a student in Rome:-

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James Barry’s Temptation of Adam (c.1770), based on Milton, which he painted while in Rome:-

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Nathaniel Hone’s Self-Portrait (c.1780):-

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And Gainsborough’s Cottage Girl (1785), which looks saccharine in reproduction, but less so when you see the quality of the painting:-

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Uranus

The other thing that I was really impressed by in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Library was the manuscript ‘observing book’ in which William Herschel described his observations of the planets, including the entry on 9th. September 1782 in which he sighted ‘My Planet’, which was Uranus – ‘the Planet extremely ill defined’.   He is the one and only person to have discovered a new planet from his observatory which he had recently moved from Bath to Slough:-

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Spitalfields Mathematical Society

I was invited this afternoon to meet the new Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society, one of our neighbours in the courtyard, and to see some of the books in their library.   I was most struck by the fact that they have inherited books and manuscripts from the library of the Spitalfields Mathematical Society, a group which was established in Spitalfields in 1717 by Joseph Middleton to teach maths to sailors.   It met in a pub, the Monmouth’s Head, until 1725, when it moved to the White Horse in Wheeler Street.   Apparently about half its members were weavers – presumably Huguenot – and the rest were a motley crew of ‘brewers, braziers, bakers, bricklayers’. The Society existed until 1845 when its membership lapsed and was absorbed into that of the Royal Astronomical Society, founded in 1820.

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Toasts

I was asked on Tuesday evening at our lenders’ dinner for Charles I about the origins of the two very distinctive Royal Academy toasts – the first to Our Patron, Protector and Supporter, Her Majesty the Queen and the second, more unusually, ‘Honor and Glory to the Next Exhibition.

Of course, I didn’t know.   But Mark Pomeroy, our excellent archivist, has been able to supply the answer:-

The earliest recorded list of toasts comes from Council minutes in 1785:  The King, The Queen, Prince of Wales & rest of the Royal Family, The Duc de Chartres & the rest of the Noblemen & Gentlemen who have honoured us with their presence , Lord Mayor and the City of London, Sr. Jos. Banks and the Royal Society, Lord Leicester and the Antiquarian Society, Prosperity to the Royal Academy, The Council.  References to Patron, Protector & Supporter and Honor & Glory in the secondary literature often append the term “ancient” and there is little reason to doubt that the formulation predates written evidence.  The King describes himself as ‘Patron, Protector and Supporter’ at the head of the Instrument of Foundation and this terminology is likely to have been adopted for the King’s toast at early Academy dinners.  As for ‘Honor & Glory’, this may well pre-date the Academy itself.   It is bi-partisan in tone, privileging neither the Academist party nor the Hogarthians and could, perhaps, date from the Society of Artists of Great Britain’s St. Luke’s Day dinners.

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Gavin Stamp

I only just made it to Gavin Stamp’s funeral, held – very appropriately – in St. Giles, Camberwell, George Gilbert Scott’s great masterpiece of the early 1840s, an appropriate place for the service as so much of Gavin’s life was tied up with the three generations of Scotts, including his book Temples of Power, published in 1979 with illustrations by Glynn Boyd Harte, which first bought the Bankside Power Station to public attention (and it was apparently Gavin who first suggested that it might be used as an art gallery).   I luckily arrived in time to hear the eulogy which had been written by Jonathan Meades in language of magnificent convolution be delivered by Otto Saumarez Smith, adding an unexpectedly dramatic delivery to the oratory.   I don’t think I have ever seen so many architectural historians all gathered in one place and had forgotten that Gavin was not only conservative in his architectural tastes, but co-wrote The Church in Crisis with Andrew Wilson and Charles Moore, so that we were able to enjoy the Lord’s Prayer (and the rest of the service) in the original language.

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