Make yourself at home with one of the finest and most important collections of Irish art at The Merrion Hotel.
If, as they say, you can tell the story of a nation through its art, then the art on the walls of The Merrion speaks of wild and beautiful landscapes, adventurous spirits, powerful personalities, unforgettable brave women, and ever-questing imaginations. The collections at the National Gallery, and the exhibitions at the Royal Hibernian Academy, both right on the hotel’s doorstep, bring the best in historical and contemporary art to their walls, but there’s nothing quite like living with art.
That’s why visitors and guests love taking the famous Art Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Rooms, where, surrounded by timeless works, you can enjoy sweet creations inspired by the artists themselves. And while works from the 19th century are utterly at home in the hotel’s elegant Georgian interiors, we also love the way more contemporary artists fit right in too.
It’s a mix that makes all the art alive and vibrant and matches the artists’ own spirits of adventure. Perhaps it’s because we are an island nation, or maybe artists are by nature venturesome, but so many of Ireland’s famous artists in the Merrion’s extraordinary collection, were inveterate travellers.
Paul Henry (1877-1958) painted West of Ireland landscapes that captured the purple mountains and cloud-flecked skies so perfectly, it is now impossible to drive across Connemara and into Mayo without feeling as if you’re living and breathing one of his works. Born in Belfast, Henry went to Paris to study, before settling in the extreme west: Achill Island in the days way before creature comforts found their way that far. His Fisherman on the Beach hangs in the reception area of Patrick Guilbaud’s restaurant at the Hotel.
Born in a house on nearby Fitzwilliam Square, pioneering abstract painter, Mainie Jellet (1897-1944) also went to Paris, and defied convention to study Cubism with André Lhote. Inflecting what she discovered with a sense of Irish landscape, and also profound spirituality, her resulting works are extraordinary. Achill Horses and Madonna and Child, both hanging in the Reception Room, are pure joy.
Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) was yet more adventurous. A major exhibition of her work, which began at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, has been touring the country – and is at the Limerick City Gallery, until August 25th. Swanzy explored many styles, her restless intelligence keen to continue to learn. “If I had been born Henry instead of Mary, my life would have been very different”, she once said. And it’s true, even though she exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1914, and showed in London alongside Henry Moore and Marc Chagall, her work merits a much wider reputation today. Like her fellow artists, Swanzy wen to Paris, but roved further: to the then Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and on to Hawaii and Samoa. Discover extraordinary work by Swanzy throughout the hotel.
Add to these, Martin Mooney’s contemporary commissions, works by Louis Le Brocquy, William Leech, Sir John Lavery, Nathaniel Hone, Jack B Yeats (William’s once more-famous brother), William Scott, Norah McGuinness and Maria Simmons Gooding, and the walls of The Merrion are alive with artistic voices across time, style and place. With the announcement of the inaugural winner of The Merrion Plinth, Orla Whelan, we’re also delighted to see her intricate and intriguing Chaos Bewitched joining the works on show at the hotel for the next two years, and so continuing the story of Ireland through art into its next exciting chapter.
Self-guided audio tours of the collection are available bringing deeper insight into twenty of the Hotel’s finest works throughout the building and gardens; as is a publication looking at some of the works in depth. Enquire at the Concierge desk.