Art Appreciation- The Old Masters

Vermeer at the National Gallery

The Vermeer exhibition in the newly refurbished National Gallery is one of the biggest cultural events of the year in Dublin. This exhibition runs from June to September and is one of the major art exhibitions in Europe this summer.  The exhibition features 10 Vermeer paintings amongst those of his contemporaries, the other Dutch masters of genre painting. The theme of the exhibition is ‘Inspiration and Rivalry’.  These artists would strive to outdo each other in excellence, painting similar themes in response to each other’s paintings.  “Once you’ve seen a Vermeer painting and really engaged in it, you never forget it…It becomes part of your experience”, said Dr Arthur Wheelock, a contributor in Vermeer- Beyond Time, an excellent RTE documentary celebrating the exhibition.

Pride of place in this exhibition is the National Gallery’s very own Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid.Writing woman a letter, with her maid, by Johannes Vermeer This painting forms part of the Beit Collection, most generously donated to the Gallery by Lord and Lady Beit formerly of Russborough House in Blessington.  Back in 1986, this beautiful Vermeer along with other priceless works of art, was stolen from Russborough House in one of the most infamous art robberies of all time.   The idea that this masterpiece, along with a Goya and other celebrated works, lay wrapped in black plastic in a forest for months, does not bear thinking about.  The fact that these works were recovered, having passed through the hands of several notorious criminal gangs, makes them all the more precious. These events featured in TV3’s Great Irish Robberies recently –one of the many interesting TV programmes that coincide with this wonderful exhibition.

As much on show as the paintings themselves, is the beautifully refurbished National Gallery.  Founded in 1864 with paintings purchased by William Dargan, the Gallery’s collections grew along with its need for more space. By 2011 the poor state of the building had to be addressed and it closed for six years. It was refurbished by the OPW at a cost of €30 million but we now have a world-class gallery and it’s still free.  Check out the RTE player to see Portrait of a Gallery which documents the problems and surprises (including a well!), yet final triumph of the refurbishment process.nat gallery

With 80% of the exhibition space closed, the National Gallery still managed to welcome over 700,000 visitors annually according to Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery. The Vermeer exhibition together with our beautiful National Gallery has rekindled the public’s interest in Art and Art History and the Gallery will hopefully welcome many new visitors, eager to view and appreciate its treasures.

Art Appreciation – The Old Masters

Our new course, taught by Dr Jane Humphries, Art Appreciation- The Old Masters is a response to all these exciting cultural events. This course will be on Wednesday evenings, starting Wednesday 27 September 8.00-9.30 pm, 6 weeks, fee €80.  Five weeks of this course will be in the class room and the final week will be a tour of the National Gallery to view the some of the paintings studied. Here’s how Jane describes the course:

“The ‘Old Masters’ is a six week course that concentrates on key works by artists before 1800 that would be considered as ground breakers in European Western Art History.

By focusing on artists that have been established by art historians as the greatest artists of their time, and by regarding their seminal works, the course plans to take a light but informative approach into the development of art from the Proto Renaissance – Giotto di Bondone; Early Renaissance  – Fra Angelico, Masaccio, Sandro Botticelli; High Renaissance – Leonardo Da Vinci; Michelangelo; Raphael the Venetians – Giorgione; Titan; Tintoretto and Veronese; the Northern Renaissance – Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden, Hans Memling and Hugo van der Goes – the Dutch Golden Age artists Frans Hals, Rembrandt Van Rijin, Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu, Johannes Vermeer; -the influence of Spaniards, El Greco and Diego Velazquez and lastly moving to the Baroque period focusing on Caravaggio.

Angelika_Kauffmann_Selbstbildnis_in_Bregenzerwälder_Tracht_1781In light that some ‘Old Mistresses’ also contributed to the history of art. Women artists of the period such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Rachel Ruysch and Angelica Kauffman shall also be discussed.  Where possible the course will highlight works from these artists that are held in the National Gallery of Ireland and the last talk will take place within the gallery to see first-hand the fabulous history of Western art unfolding before our eyes.”



Dr Jane Humphries is an independent lecturer, writer and curator. She holds a PhD awarded from University of Dublin, Trinity College, and an MA from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  She has taught Modern and Contemporary Art at UCD and has lectured at TCD, IMMA, The National Gallery of Ireland and Mansfield College, Oxford University amongst others. Her research has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed essays and articles, and she has contributed to various talks, journals, books and art magazines such as, The Royal Hibernian Academy, The Irish Times, The Irish Arts Review and Circa. Currently she is researching a forthcoming book based on her research, Re-imagining the Domestic in Contemporary Art.

Modern and Contemporary Irish Art

In November, Jane will teach a course in Crumlin College Evening School on Modern and Contemporary Irish Art. This course is a must for anyone interested in understanding and investing in Contemporary Irish Art.  But more of that later…

If you would like to sign up for Art Appreciation- The Old Masters or any course in our programme, please contact us by phone

 01-4540662 or email adulted after 21st August 2017.

You can enrol in person in Crumlin College from Monday 4th September, 6.30 -8.30 pm, Monday to Thursday at these times until classes start Monday 25th September 2017.







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