A Galaxy of Geniuses


Watercolour emerged from the obscurity of European Studies in the twilight years of the 18th Century. The establishment of the Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1804 in London marked the begining of an odyssey that continues to this day.

Due to the talents of Turner, Girtin, Varley, Blake, Cotman, David Cox, Peter de Wint and others, it gained in popularity and its influence spread throughout the westen world; practiced by artist and aesthete alike.

In Ireland the 19th Century saw the emergence of some very distinguished practitioners of the art. The achievements of

Rose Barton
Frederick William Burton

Francis Danby
Ernest Michaelangelo Hayes
Daniel Maclise
William Mulready
Andrew Nichol
George Petrie PRHA
Walter Osborne
Jack B Yeats
John Bulter Yeats
and many others have long been recognised as representative masters of their generations.

The Water Colour Society of Ireland was founded in 1870. Its Annual Exhibition has reflected the social and artistic intelligence of more than one hundred and twenty years of Irish culture. It was inevitable that many of its members would achieve international recognition as its base was broad, its members privileged and cosmopolitan.

Royal patronage in the person of HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, KG, attracted the support of both talented artist and dilettante alike. The Annual Exhibition was and still remains a highlight of the social calendar.

One looks back with pride and pleasure on those artists who, in the past, contributed to and lent their support to the Society.

First amongst them are the founder members - The Baroness Pauline Prochazka, The Misses Leane, Miss Phipps, Miss Curry and Miss Musgrave. In the course of time they attacted the talents of Nathaniel Hone RHA, Lady Butler (Elizabeth Thompson), Sir William Burton, Bingham McGuinness, Rose Barton, Mildred Ann Butler, Lady Ardilaun, Percy French, Evie Hone, Manie Jellet, Walter Osborne RHA, Helen O'Hara, Sarah Purser RHA, Tom Nisbet RHA, Brigid Ganley HRHA, Maurice McGonigal PRHA, Kitty Wilmer O'Brien RHA, Fr Jack Hanlon, Norah McGuinness, Niccola Carraciola RHA, Sean O'Connor and countless others who embraced the medium and left behind a legacy of charm and distinction to be enjoyed by all.

A debt of gratitude is owned to the University of Limerick which has now become a Pantheon of the Arts. The National Self-Portrait collection is now well established there, and the Water Colour Society of Ireland collection by contemporary members has been given its own gallery on the ground floor of the Foundation Building. Thanks are due to the initiative of Dr Edward Walsh and his esteemed colleague, the late Dr Patrick Doran.

The Society is proud and honoured to have a presence in these august surroundings and confident that, as the collection expands by drawing on the past and with the support of future members, it will become a valued part of the European hertige.

James Nolan RHA