Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

The Sale of Pictures by the Beit Foundation

The group of paintings that are being sold by the Beit Foundation, to create an endowment fund designed to keep Russborough House open and in good working order, have nothing whatsoever to do with the generous bequest made by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit. They are owned by the Foundation. They are significant individual works of art and their sale is important and should be supported by the very organisations that are now trying to stop that sale.

Notable among these are An Taisce, the Irish Georgian Society and The Friends of the National Collections of Ireland. All are misrepresenting the facts.

The Friends of the National Collections of Ireland maintain that the paintings “form part of the bequest of Sir Alfred and Lady Beit”. They do not. That bequest is safely and proudly held in the National Gallery. It is no longer safe for it to be housed at Russborough. This second, more recent group of works were not “gifted for public benefit” other than as decided by the Beit Foundation. The State has no responsibility in the matter.


The Essential Editing Problems of Volume V of the Yale University Press Book, Art and Architecture of Ireland

I have paid special attention to this volume, covering Irish Art of the twentieth century and of the first decade of the twenty-first century because much of my writing and scholarship has been concerned with that period and with the lives of certain of the great painters who lived and worked then.

In analysing the major faults I find in
Volume V, the obvious starting point is the one chosen by the authors of the Preface and joint editors of this fifth volume, Catherine Marshall and Peter Murray. They say that the project ‘emerged from a proposal to mark the centenary of the publication of Walter [George] Strickland’s seminal A Dictionary of Irish Artists in 1913’. They further claim that the Dictionary ‘remains the foundation stone upon which our understanding of Irish art history is based’ and that this is widely and warmly acknowledged. Their brief, which they say is shared with their advisory board, is ‘to bring Strickland up to date’.

One might well ask two questions: What has this narrow brief to do with the large number of essays on the selected twentieth-century artists of note together with the disparate essays on a wide variety of related or unrelated subjects? And why try to do it again when it has already been done with great thoroughness by Strickland’s distinguished successor, Theo Snoddy?