Stormy seas the star in Dún Laoghaire exhibition
Dublin Painting and Sketching Club turns its sights seawards for annual show
On November 20th, 1807 two British troop ships en route to the Napoleonic War encountered gale-force winds and heavy snow, and sank in Dublin Bay. The Prince of Wales foundered at Blackrock, while the Rochdale struck the rocks at Seapoint. The ships were crowded with soldiers and their families – the number of lives lost is usually put at around 400.
It wasn’t by any means the only maritime disaster in the area – the bay was notoriously tricky to navigate, and the early 19th century had seen some exceptionally bad winter storms. But the fact that the ships sank so close to the coast; that so many women and children died, and that hundreds of bodies were washing up on the shores of the city caused a huge public outcry.
The British government was forced to begin work on a harbour at Dún Laoghaire, and 200 years ago this month the foundation stone was laid at what is now the East Pier.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is organising a series of events from late May to commemorate the bicentenary, but another august organisation, the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club, has got in first with its 2017 art exhibition which opens this week at the Concourse Gallery, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (DLR) County Hall.
“Because we always have our annual exhibition in May, we felt it would be appropriate to ask our members to respond to the maritime theme,” says Tom Scott, past president and current member of the club.
This is the DPSC’s 139th annual exhibition. Of the 250 pictures on show more than a quarter are devoted to matters maritime, portraying the harbour in all its moods and at various historical periods. “We decided to focus on the fact that the harbour arose to provide a haven for ships so a lot of our paintings are representing stormy seas,” Scott says.
“Another set looks at the harbour today, as a major sailing centre, and we have a number of other paintings with boats and harbours in general – Arklow, Roundstone and various other parts of the country.”
Founded by an eclectic group of artists in 1874, the DPSC’s nautical connections date back to the 1890s when a hardy group of club members liked to sail out of Dún Laoghaire on a wide-beamed, shallow draft yacht called the Iris. “It was owned by George Prescott, who was an electrical engineer, a scientific instrument maker and an electrician,” says Scott. “They called themselves the Graphic Cruisers’ Club. They had their easels lashed to the deck and they painted the boats, harbours and beaches of the bay in all weathers.
“Alexander Williams, a founder member and secretary of the club at the time, was part of this group and quite a few of his important marine paintings were painted from this boat.”
As well as the maritime paintings, the show will include landscapes, still life, portraiture and many other subjects. Prices start at around €250 for a small print or drawing and range up to €3,000 and over. There will also be a number of public events including a plein air painting day on Saturday, May 13th, 11am-3pm, a guided tour of the maritime paintings on Sunday, May 14th at 3pm, and painting demonstrations on Saturday, May 20th, with John Dinan giving a class on harbour painting (11am) and Brenda Malley showing how to paint a seascape using a palette knife (2.30pm).
The Dublin Painting and Sketching Club’s annual show is at the Concourse Gallery, DLR County Hall, Marine Road, Dún Laoghaire, May 8th-May 21st, 10am-5pm daily. See dublinpaintingandsketchingclub.ie