The elegant, Georgian, stone-clad Charlemont House, with its curved outer and inner walls and Neoclassical interior, has provided a permanent home for the Hugh Lane gallery since 1933. Sir Hugh, a nephew of Lady Gregory, wanted Dublin to house a major gallery of Irish and international art. He amassed a considerable collection by persuading native artists to contribute their work and purchasing many other paintings himself, particularly from the French Impressionist school and Italy.
The gallery holds around half of the Lane collection (the rest is in London’s National Gallery) and only a fraction is on display here at any one time, though you’re likely to see works by Renoir, Monet and Degas, as well as Pissarro and the Irish painters Jack B. Yeats, Roderic O’Connor and Louis le Brocquy, as well as stained-glass pieces by Evie Hone and Harry Clarke. Simultaneously, there are usually other temporary exhibitions of more modern artworks.
Part of the gallery is devoted to a recreation of Dublin-born painter Francis Bacon’s studio, transported from its original location at Reece Mews in South Kensington, London, where the artist lived and worked for the last thirty years of his life. After his death in 1992, his studio was donated to the gallery by his heir, John Edwards, and reconstructed here with astonishing precision – more than seven thousand individual items were catalogued and placed here with verisimilitude in the reconstruction. The studio can only be viewed through the window glass but amongst the apparent debris are an old Bush record-player, empty champagne boxes and huge tins of the type of matt vinyl favoured by Bacon, the fumes of which exacerbated his asthma. The surrounding rooms hold displays of memorabilia, such as photographs and correspondence, as well as a detailed database of every item found in the studio (accessible via touchscreen consoles) and large canvases from the painter’s last years.