The Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, usually referred to as The Hugh Lane, is unique in that it is the first known public gallery for modern art anywhere in the world. This is due to the work of Hugh Lane who was a successful London art dealer and collector. He had a particular passion for works of the Impressionists, and there are a number of fine paintings by such artists as Renoir, Pissarro and Manet on show.
Lane was born in Cork in 1875 and spent most of his early life in Cornwall. After school he began an apprenticeship as a painting restorer, but soon began dealing in paintings. Although he lived in London he often returned to Ireland and stayed with his aunt, Lady Augusta Gregory (a founder of the Abbey Theatre), and was familiar with Irish art which he praised and promoted. As such, he decided that Ireland needed a gallery to show these works and he opened the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in January 1908. It was set-up in temporary premises on Harcourt Street, and Lane hoped that Dublin Corporation would take over the running of the gallery. This, however, did not happen, as the Corporation were uncertain about the financial viability of such an enterprise. Sadly, Lane was among almost 1,200 people who died when the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed on 7th May 1915 off his native Cork, and never lived to see ‘his’ gallery.
Following his untimely death many years were spent arguing about the 39 paintings in the ‘Lane Bequest’. It was not until 1959, more than forty years after Lane’s death, that a deal was struck between the Irish and British governments for the custodianship of the paintings. Half of the paintings would be shown in Dublin every five years, but this arrangement was altered in 1993 whereby 31 of the paintings would stay in Dublin. Charlemont House (the former townhouse of James Caulfield, owner of the Casino at Marino) was opened as the permanent location for the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, and it is now one of the city’s favourite galleries.