Henry Edward Doyle (1827–1892) succeeded Mulvany as Director in 1869. He and his great friend, Lord Powerscourt, a long serving and influential member of the Board, frequently travelled to London to purchase works of art at auction. Powerscourt recalled in his book, A Description and History of Powerscourt (1903), ‘many a pleasant trip we had visiting foreign galleries and hunting for pictures both on the Continent and at Christie’s and elsewhere.’
Doyle was educated in London and worked for a time as an illustrator and wood engraver. He also painted, and a number of his works are in the Gallery’s collection. His directorship was marked by an innovative re-hang of the collection; significant acquisitions, despite limited funds; and the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery (opened in 1884). A modest annual purchasing grant of £1,000 had been granted to the Gallery in 1866, and in 1882 an additional special grant of £1,000 was authorised by William Gladstone, the British Prime Minister, for the purchase of works from the sale of the Hamilton art collection- one of the finest collections in Europe. The grant enabled Doyle to buy five paintings including works by Poussin, Antonio Palma and Giovanni Lo Spagna.
Other masterpieces of the collection acquired during Doyle’s tenure include Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Rest on The Flight into Egypt, Titan’s Ecce Homo and Reynolds’s Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont. He also initiated a policy of buying Irish artworks, acquiring The Opening of the Sixth Seal by Francis Danby and George Barret’s View of Powerscourt Waterfall. Daniel Maclise’s The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife also entered the collection in Doyle’s time, presented by board member Sir Richard Wallace in 1879.