An exhibition in the Irish Georgian Society

High Summer, Burtown House and Gardens, County Kildare, oil on canvas, by Lesley Fennell.

Today an exhibition opened in the City Assemby House in South William Street in Dublin, the home of the Irish Georgian Society, of paintings of walled gardens of Ireland. The exhibition coincides with a television documentary about walled gardens airing this Sunday on RTE. There will also be a conference in May 2022 about the Irish country house garden, along with another exhibition, and a book edited by Finola O’Kane-Crimmins on the same subject.

https://www.igs.ie/updates/article/igs-year-of-the-country-house-garden

Burtown Gardens, which I visited this summer with Stephen and our friend Gary – the house is listed in Section 482 so we’ll be visiting it again at some point. It is the home of the artist Lesley Fennell.

The exhibition features the work of four artists, all owners of big houses: Lesley Fennell of Burtown, County Kildare; Andrea Jameson of Tourin, County Waterford; Alison Rosse of Birr Castle, County Offaly; and Maria Levinge of Clohamon, County Wexford. All of the houses but the last are on the Section 482 listing this year.

Many walled gardens are pictured, and I was delighted to recognise some.

Enniscoe, County Mayo, by Maria Levinge. Oil on board. We visited Enniscoe this year and had a wonderful tour with owner Susan Kellett, who brought history to life as if she had been present, such as when she told us of the 1798 visit of French soldiers to the house.
Maria Levinge’s painting captures the pink Enniscoe House in the background of her painting.
The walled garden of Enniscoe House, which contains a museum. As the house is also on the Section 482 list, I’ll be writing about it soon.

I will be invigilating the exhibition on Wednesday 29th September 10:00 – 1:30, along with some other dates, and was there today. The launch was last night, and I was delighted that some of the artists dropped in today while I was there.

Robert O’Byrne curated the exhibition and introduced the invigilators to the work. During the year the Georgian Society ran a programme of interviews with the artists, by Robert O’Byrne, and these are available to watch at the exhibition.

My photographs, taken on my phone rather than with my Canon camera, do not do justice to the paintings.

The Formal Gardens, Birr Castle, by Alison Rosse.

We visited Birr Castle in 2019 and I took the same view as that painted above!

The Formal Gardens were designed by Anne, Countess of Rosse, on her marriage in 1935, in the form of a monastic cloister, complete with windows, cut into the hornbeam hedge.

According to the small catalogue, which is available for purchase, there are about 8,000 walled gardens in Ireland! The exhibition features about thirty different walled gardens, some public and some private.

Lissadell, County Sligo, by Maria Levinge. Oil on board. We drove right up to the gates of Lissadell last month but unfortunately it is not open to the public this year due to Covid, so we will have to visit another time!

Many Section 482 houses featured in this blog have walled gardens. Most recently, I wrote about Killineer in County Louth, which is not in this exhibition. Barmeath, also in Louth, and Cappoquin in County Waterford, are included, as well as Lodge Park and Larchill in Kildare, both of which are listed in Section 482 and which I have yet to visit.

I like this one by Maria Levinge of the garden at IMMA, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, as it also pictures the relatively newly built apartments in the background, which I often pass on my way to the Memorial Gardens.

I think Robert Wilson-Wright was digging the pond featured in Lesley Fennell’s painting of Coolcarrigan, on the day that we visited!

The Pond at Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, by Lesley Fennell. Oil on canvas.
Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, September 2019.

I didn’t realise that the splendid greenhouse at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, which we visited last month, is not the original Turner-built one, but a reproduction of it.

The greenhouse at Woodstock, County Kilkenny.
The Turner conservatory at Woodstock, County Kilkenny by Lesley Fennell. Oil on canvas.

I particularly liked the painting that Andrea Jameson did of herself struggling to paint “en pleine aire” in the wind in her garden in Tourin.

Andrea Jameson painting in her garden at Tourin, self-portrait. Oil on canvas.

The painters paint their own gardens, and each others’. Gardens featured which are open to the public include Lismore Castle in Waterford, Altamont in Carlow, Kilmacurragh in County Wicklow, Heywood in County Laois (my father remembers seeing the fire which burnt down the house!), Doneraile in County Cork, and Russborough, which I didn’t know has a walled garden.

Adamnan Lodge, Birr, County Offaly by Alison Rosse. Oil on board.
Red Geranium, Greenhouse, Tourin, by Andrea Jameson. Oil on canvas.

Some of the gardens are in Northern Ireland, such as at Glenarm and Crom Castle.

Stephen and I have been lucky enough to visit many walled gardens in our explorations of Section 482 properties, and have many more still to visit. We toured rather extensively around Ireland during Heritage Week this year and I have lots to write that I hope to publish soon!

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