When another of Millet’s  peasant paintings, The Angelus (1858, detail), sold a few years later for a staggering multiple of what it had earned him, it became something of a scandal. An indirect result, eventually, was the French droit de suite law, guaranteeing a share of resale value to artists and their families. And that law is still spreading its influence today, having helped inform a 2001 European directive, now binding here too.

As grateful artists everywhere will know, today is the 200th birthday of Jean-François Millet, a painter whose influence on subsequent generations wen(...)

Sapanta, a small community in Romania’s extreme north, which would probably be unheard of anywhere else, except for its cemetery, now globally renowned for the cheerful colours – and in many cases equally cheerful epitaphs – on its grave-markers.
Famous last words

Anyone who has ever visited the grave of Samuel Beckett in Paris may also have chanced upon that of his near neighbour in eternity, Eugène Ionesco, wh(...)

Frank’s shelfie.  “Alistair Cooke had a floor-to-ceiling collection on his favourite subject, America, arranged geographically. The books about New England were in the upper right corner; California was lower left; etc. No doubt there was some spatial revisionism in between – the corn-belt states hardly took up much room in these United Shelves of America, whereas Massachusetts must have been vast. But the arrangement was sensible.”

I see Tracey Emin is among the latest celebrities to have posted a “shelfie”. This is the phenomenon I wrote about last year, whereby people take pict(...)

 Perhaps its keynote passage was one in which he declared the Irish to be the happiest people in Europe. Typically, this was accompanied by withering explanation. “With the possible exception of the Mexican,” Bretherton wrote, “the Irishman does more of the things that he likes doing and less of the things that he dislikes doing than any other human being”. The four things the Irish liked, he added, were “horse-racing, religion, politics, and porter”. Devotion to these pastimes explained not just the happiness, but the “dreadful frugality” of Irish life – a frugality “not born of poverty but of ignorance”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mention of Tom Penhaligon’s 1935 diatribe The Impossible Irish (September 27th) has led me, via a reader’s recommendation, to another literary broadsi(...)

 “What caught my eye was the book’s title, The Impossible Irish. And what really hooked me was the ‘dedication’ . . . ‘This book is flung in the face of the Irish – a fighting race who never won a battle, a race of politicians who cannot govern themselves, a race of writers without a great one of native strain, an island race who have yet to man a fleet for war, for commerce or for the fishing banks [...], a pious race excelling in blasphemy, who feel most wronged by those they have first injured, who sing of love and practise fratricide, preach freedom and enact suppression, a race of democrats who sweat the poor ...”

Strolling the leafy back roads of the National Library one night recently, I chanced upon an extraordinary book published in London in 1935. The autho(...)

“Depressed by the prospect of a long period in opposition, Cumann na nGaedheal and its successor Fine Gael make a series of exhibitions of themselves in which blue is the predominant colour. The experiment ends in 1933, with the return to a broader palette.”
The politics of art

The politics of post-independence Irish art: a brief history.1924: Jack B Yeats wins a silver medal at the Paris Olympics for “The Liffey Swim”. Back (...)

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott: criticised for saying “probly” instead of “probably” and “gumment” for “government”. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

An Australian voice coach called Dean Frenkel caused some consternation in his country last month when, in an opinion piece for the (Melbourne) Age, h(...)

Gay McKeon of Na Píobairí Uilleann, the uileann pipers’ club, at their Henrietta Street centre in Dublin. The pipers’ future looks secure. But it was different 46 years ago, when Na Píobairí Uilleann had to be set up to protect an endangered species. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Once a threatened species, uilleann pipers have reproduced with such success in recent decades that there are now an estimated 6,000 in the wild, maki(...)

Some of the laws to be abolished date from the era of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland James Butler in the mid-1600s

A proclamation to reserve the consumption of oatmeal and potatoes “for the lower orders of the people” is among a number of measures on which the Gove(...)

Behan took to drinking Pernod Ricard, which as he said was “the nearest thing to absinthe”, the spirit (by then illegal) of fin-de-siècle Parisian bohemia. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Rebel in Rome

I’m not sure if the real-life Brendan Behan ever made it to Rome. But if he didn’t, then on one occasion at least, it wasn’t for want of trying. In th(...)