George Mulvany (1809-1869), the Gallery’s first Director, was a tireless advocate of art education and played a crucial role in the foundation of the National Gallery believing that it was ‘an institution… destined to be of great national benefit.’ Appointed in 1862, his primary task was to acquire pictures in preparation for the grand opening. Mulvany approached the National Gallery in London to request the loan of artworks that they regarded as unsuitable for display; his selection for the Dublin opening comprised paintings by old masters, chiefly Italian, Flemish, German and French artists.
Mulvany was also interested in building a research collection; one of the earliest publications accessioned into the Gallery’s library collection was donated by Mulvany. A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge carvinge and buildinge, [by] Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo; translated by Richard Haydocke, 1598 is the first English translation of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s treatise on art, Trattato dell’arte de la pittura (Milan, 1584). This book is regarded as one of the first manuals of art and was widely used by artists. Today, the holdings of the Library and Archive continue to be of national and international significance comprising over 100,000 items relating to art from the fifteenth century to the present day.
Artworks acquired during Mulvany's directorship include Granacci's Rest on the Flight into Egypt with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (c.1494) and Moroni's Portrait of a Gentleman and his two Children (c.1570).