Archive for April 13th, 2010

Review: Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies

13 April 2010

Contributed by Patrick Walsh

The last twenty years have seen a revolution in Irish consumption practices and attitudes. Property and its acquisition became the watchword for success, while Irish culture and heritage became sellable commodities. This has become one reading of the Irish experience during the so-called Celtic Tiger years, and it contains many truths. Similar comments could have been made about Ireland in the mid to late eighteenth-century, when the Georgian cities of Dublin and Limerick began to acquire their modern shape, and Irish country houses began to multiply in the countryside. Often seen as symbols of political power and patronage as well as avarice by contemporaries and later generations, these products of a time that was both a Penal Era and Golden Age have slowly come to be seen as important markers of Irish architectural and cultural heritage. This process owes much to the ‘search and rescue’ activities of the Irish Georgian Society, whose famous battles with the nascent developer class from the late 1950s onwards are well known. By the 1990s relations between developers and the ‘Georgians’ had become more complex as the new rich of the Tiger years sought trophy homes, often those erected in that previous age of prosperity. Similarly that other phenomenon of the last two decades the ‘celebrity’ similarly desired their own ‘pile’. Together with a more favourable government attitude the wealth of the boom years allowed Irish Georgian to become fashionable again, leading to the Lord of the Dance becoming the Lord of the Manor. Here I am referring to Michael Flatley’s purchase of the fine Co. Cork country house, Castle Hyde, which he had lovingly restored. Its history during the turbulent years of the great famine is the subject of a fine article by Terry Dooley in the latest issue of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, the journal of the Irish Georgian Society, which is the subject of this review. This journal reflects the IGS’s longstanding commitment to scholarship seen in its original periodical, The Quarterly Bulletin and since 1998 Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies now in its twelfth volume which has become one of the leading journals in the field of Irish art history. Read more