March 2014 Lecture at Fota House
On Sunday 30th March 2014, members of the Cork chapter of the Irish Georgian Society were treated to an enchanting lecture by art historian Patricia Butler. The lecture was based on a forthcoming publication, Wicklow through the Artist’s Eye, which was written and researched by Patricia and her co-author Mary Davies and is due to be published by Wordwell in the Spring.
The fully illustrated lecture provided an informative interpretation of historical maps, drawings and paintings from Co. Wicklow. Examples of engravings by George Petrie to Romantic landscapes by painters such as George Barret, William Ashford and Thomas Roberts were decoded by Patricia. Imparting her passion for gardening, she shed light on the designed landscapes of Capability Brown that dismissed the earlier classical styles imported from the continent by exponents of the Grand Tour. Examples of the above are lavishly illustrated in the forthcoming book.
Fota House was an apt venue for the lecture. It was designed by east Cork architect Richard Morrison and his son William Vitruvius who were also responsible for the magnificent transformation of Kilruddery into a Tudor revival mansion at Bray and the remodeling of Shelton Abbey into a Gothic revival fantasy at Arklow in the 1820s. Both of these were highlighted in the lecture. The backdrop of Fota's 19th century Irish Romantic landscapes (described as the most significant collection of its type outside the National Gallery of Ireland) further enhanced the ambience of the event. The Dargle Powerscourt Ireland by James Arthur O'Connor (1792 – 1841), is a perfect example of one such landscape.
Patricia’s lecture acknowledged the splendid landscape of County Wicklow. Taken as a microcosm of the Irish landscape, it was a reminder of the link between this landscape, the people that created it and its importance as part of our heritage. With the pylons' issue looming, publications such as Wicklow through the Artist’s Eye give prominence to the concerns of bodies, such as the Irish Georgian Society, that criticise such structures for their negative impact on the landscape that forms an integral part of the setting of much of our distinguished architectural heritage. We look forward with anticipation to its publication.