A wonderfully eclectic mix


A value cannot be placed upon the legacy of art works which fill our galleries and museums. However, the process of donating works to the public can be a precarious one, as many collections either remain within private estates or are divided as inheritance.

The late Father John McGrath's bequest of 49 paintings and prints to the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery in Cork is certainly propitious, since no such one-off multifarious donation has befallen the gallery (and probably others like it) since the keystone Gibson lump-sum of 1919. Numerous other figures have steadily brought marvellous works to the Crawford, but in fashion piecemeal by comparison.

Behind such generosity, the thought of a priest as art collector might rankle with some. Admittedly the perceptions of each are not particularly interchangeable, as it is just as unlikely to envisage a decadent art connoisseur extolling the virtues of the Gospel.

Nonetheless, collect he did, influenced by advice from friends, dictates of the art scene, and ultimately by his developing tastes. The result is a wonderfully eclectic mix from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, leading up to contemporary heavyweights like O'Malley, Le Brocquy, Cooke etc. Overall it is landscape, and abstracts derived therefrom, which seem to have interested Fr McGrath the most. These span a range technical approaches from the breezy naturalism of G.K. Gillespie, to the more controlled style of James Arthur O'Connor. Beautiful allegorical work from Daniel Maclise, religious themes from Colin Middleton and Patrick Pye, and superstars like Dali, Braque and Hockney give some glue to the variation. Even works which have dated terribly are in the minority, namely the oddity that is Robert Ballagh's Rachel as Marilyn Monroe.

See them now while still grouped together.

Runs until September 30th