For the Present I


This is the first in a short series of suggestions for gifts this season. David Hicks’ Irish Country Houses: Portraits and Painters is the successor to his 2012 book, Irish Country Houses: A Chronicle of Change. Like the latter, he features a number of properties from each of Ireland’s four provinces but here the conceit (using that word in the old-fashioned sense) is hanging the story of a building on a portrait, the kind of device once loved by film directors as a means of introducing audiences to what might otherwise be too unfamiliar territory. It works just as successfully here and means the text is as much social as architectural history.
Certain artists’ names recur, not least that of William Orpen who is represented in five of the 18 houses featured and they tend to date from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. The buildings on the other hand, span a broader chronology, from 16th century Castle Taylor, County Galway to Kilteragh, the County Dublin Arts and Crafts house designed by William Douglas Caroe in 1905 for that consummate patriot, Sir Horace Plunkett: it was burnt out by the IRA in January 1923. Another house, featured on the cover, is Curraghmore, County Waterford, home of the Marquis of Waterford. The main block of Curraghmore has at its core a mediaeval tower house, and in this lies the billiard room with a rococo ceiling of the late 1740s, its decoration attributed to the Lafranchini brothers. (The picture below comes not from Hicks’ book but from the Sadleir and Dickinson volume featured here on Monday). The Irish Georgian Society has recently made a grant to assist in the conservation of this plasterwork.
Handsomely produced and with many excellent photographs taken by the author, Irish Country Houses: Portraits and Painters adds further to the genre especially when it covers places not hitherto the subject of much attention. It looks well and reads well: for what more could one wish?
Curraghmore 6Irish Country Houses: Portraits and Painters is published by Collins Press, €39.99.

6 comments on “For the Present I

  1. Robert Towers says:

    Dear Robert,

    I cannot resist sending you the Christmas list with a few suggestions for your series:

    Dooley’s Decline and Fall Butler’s Appleman Everett’s Woods of Ireland Brady’s Dublin Kelly’s Sport Malcomson’s Clements O’Neill’s Irish hand Pressly’s James Barry (absolutely extaordinary production and value) Davison’s Frank Browne The AAI and the Architecture volume Skinner’s Wallpaper Jackson’s Ireland’s Generous Nature ( a must for all gardeners and plantspeople) Coakley’s Medicine in TCD McCullough’s palimpsest Geography Publications Mayo and Cavan Phaidon’s Gardeners’ Garden (Sunday Times Gardening Book of the Year)

    Best wishes,


  2. David Hicks says:

    Thank you Robert for this mention, it is very much appreciated by myself and The Collins Press.

  3. michael says:

    Remember, a book is not just for Christmas, it is for life. I am now looking through, A Chronicle of Change, and looking forward to, Portraits and Painters.

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