The stories behind ‘Big House’ portraits

New book examines portraits by Sir John Lavery, amongst others

Irish Country Houses – Portraits & Painters is the title of a new book that tells the stories behind portraits associated with former residents of Irish big houses.

The Co Mayo-born author, David Hicks, who "criss-crossed the country gathering information in relation to the portraits, their subjects and the country houses" was undeterred by "how scattered information relating to these subjects had become".

He's done an admirable job in piecing together the "stories of happiness and sometimes misfortune" captured by artists including Sir John Lavery, Sir William Orpen and Patrick Hennessy.

This is a beautifully produced, readable book that would make an ideal Christmas gift for anyone with an interest in Irish art, architecture, history and the gentry – not to mention fans of Downton Abbey.

The 280-page hardback, lavishly illustrated in colour and costing €39, is published by the Collins Press and available in good bookshops or online at