National Gallery of Ireland announces 2023 exhibition programme

Painting of three figures standing on a bridge with a background of trees and a river
Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), On the Bridge at Grez, 1884. Photo National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Including major new Lavinia Fontana and John Lavery shows.

The National Gallery of Ireland is today (21 November 2022) pleased to announce an exciting programme of exhibitions for 2023. The line-up highlights trailblazing women, with solo exhibitions of paintings by sixteenth-century Bolognese artist Lavinia Fontana – Europe’s first commercially successful female artist - and the pioneering Irish artist Sarah Purser. A display of religious art by sixteenth-century Flemish artist Goossen van der Weyden celebrates the defiant Irish Princess St Dymphna. And there’s more to discover too, including the annual Turner watercolours exhibition; a showcase of fine pastels; Sir John Lavery’s travel-inspired masterpieces; and the Zurich Portrait Prizes. We are also proud to state that from 2023, the Gallery will embed Diverse, Equitable, Accessible and Inclusive activity across exhibitions as standard via our education programme. 

Visitors will have plenty to see in the New Year, with three exhibitions opening at the Gallery in January. On view from 1 to 31 January 2023, Turner: The Henry Vaughan Bequest is a popular free annual display of light-filled Turner watercolours, bequeathed by English collector Henry Vaughan in 1900. This year’s selection will include the 31 Vaughan Bequest works, and five additional Turner watercolours, alongside eight of the artist’s much-loved Liber Studiorum prints. Also on view in the Gallery is large temporary exhibition Turner: The Sun is God - featuring 89 artworks on loan from the Tate collection in London - which continues until February 2023. 

On view from 21 January to 8 October 2023 in the Sir Hugh Lane Room is James Coleman: Still Life, 2013-2016. James Coleman’s most recent work, a video installation Still Life, 2013 2016 (yellow version), presents a silent, large-scale projection of an uprooted poppy against a black background. This will be the first display of the work at the Gallery – one year after its acquisition in February 2022 - and its first appearance in Ireland. Coleman, born in county Roscommon, works primarily in film and slide projection. A pioneer of lens-based installation art, he is recognised internationally for his influence on late-twentieth century conceptual art. Admission is free. 

St Dymphna. The Tragedy of an Irish Princess is on display from 28 January to 28 May 2023 in the Grand Gallery. In 2016, the Phoebus Foundation in Belgium undertook a large-scale restoration project focusing on an altarpiece triptych in their collection by Goossen van der Weyden (1455-1543). Dymphna - a legendary 6th or 7th century Irish saint - was the daughter of a Celtic king. When Dymphna grew to resemble her mother, her widowed father decided to marry her. To escape his incestuous intentions, Dymphna fled Ireland for Geel in Belgium, with her confessor Gerebernus. Dymphna’s father pursued and killed them, and their bodies were buried on the spot by angels. The Church of St Dymphna in Geel, consecrated in 1247, still holds relics associated with the saint. The altarpiece featuring scenes from the life of St Dymphna is the only work of its kind to focus on the life of an Irish saint. Admission is free.

A new spring exhibition Pastel Revealed, on view in the Print Gallery from 25 February to 5 June 2023, will highlight the richness of the Gallery’s pastel collection, with works spanning four centuries. It will showcase a number of skilled practitioners from both Ireland and abroad, and will highlight how the pastel technique has changed over time, with talents such as Edgar Degas in France having raised it to the rank of painting. Works by artists including Rosalba Carriera, Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Jean-Francois Millet, Edgar Degas, Maurice Marinot, Harry Kernoff, and Brian Bourke will be shown. Admission is free. 

Proudly supported by Bank of America, Exhibition Partner, the Gallery’s major summer show Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker goes on display in the Beit Wing from 6 May to 27 August 2023. A ground-breaking artist of her time, late sixteenth-century Bolognese artist Fontana is widely considered to be the first female artist to achieve professional success beyond the confines of a court or a convent. Fontana was the first woman to manager her own workshop, and the first woman to paint public altarpieces and female nudes. She maintained an active career, painting for many illustrious patrons, while also taking on the role of wife and mother. Exploring Fontana’s extraordinary life through her paintings and drawings, the exhibition will offer insight into the cultural climate that enabled the artist to flourish as a female artist of the period. This will be the first monographic exhibition to examine Fontana’s work in over two decades, and the first to focus on her portraits. It will bring together a selection of her most highly regarded works from international public and private collections, alongside the artist’s celebrated The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, from the Gallery’s own collection. The recent conservation of this Renaissance masterpiece was supported by Bank of America.

Fernando Vicario, CEO Bank of America Europe DAC and Country Executive for Ireland at Bank of America said: “The arts are intrinsic to society, playing an essential role in our well-being, and helping communities to attain greater cultural understanding. Lavinia Fontana is widely recognised as one of the most renowned and respected female artists of the Renaissance and Bank of America is delighted to partner with the National Gallery of Ireland once again to support the exhibition of her work ‘Trailblazer, Rule Breaker’. We greatly look forward to this show and the opportunity to understand one of the creative pioneers of the 16th Century.”

Shelter, on view in the Print Gallery from 8 July to 12 November 2023, will highlight new artworks created by the five members of the Shell/Ter Artist Collective (S/TAC). Diana Copperwhite, Allyson Keehan, Niamh McGuinne, Sharon Murphy and Geraldine O’Neill work in a variety of formats: painting, sculpture, expanded print and photography. Their work will be complemented by a selection of objects from the Gallery’s collection, and pieces by international artists whose work and practice resonates with the Collective. Using the Print Gallery imaginatively to show works that explore the idea of shelter, traditional methods of display will be expanded and disrupted to create a vibrant, thought-provoking exhibition. Admission is free. 

The highlight of the Gallery’s autumn programme is Lavery. On Location. On view in the Beit Wing from 7 October 2023 to 14 January 2024, this exhibition is organised by the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in collaboration with National Museums NI and National Galleries of Scotland. John Lavery was an internationally renowned Irish painter at the turn of the 20th century, and the only Irishman to receive the Freedom of both Dublin and Belfast in the inter-war period, in a divided Ireland. He never travelled for business or pleasure without his painting kit. Paintings such as The Bridge at Grez have become the essential images of their times. This exhibition will focus on some of the key destinations depicted in Lavery’s art from Scotland to Palm Springs. Special features will be the works produced at Grez-sur-Loing – his ‘happiest days’ - and in Tangier. There are also studies from Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and Italy, and depictions of cities from Glasgow to London, Venice, Cannes and New York. Such was the richness and variety of Lavery’s work that Winston Churchill was led to conclude that his artistic mentor, was a ‘plein-airiste if ever there was one’. 

Sarah Purser: Private Worlds is on display in the Sir Hugh Lane Room from 21 October 2023 to 25 February 2024. Purser overcame the many restrictions placed on women of her time to play a pivotal role in the development of modern Irish art. Her achievements as an advocate and activist for the arts in Ireland are significant, and she maintained a lucrative portrait practice throughout her long life. However, it is in her scenes of everyday life, and her portraits of friends and family members, that her artistic abilities and her awareness of developments in modern painting can be appreciated more fully. This exhibition will present a selection of Purser’s finest oils, highlighting her interest in a more intimate style of portraiture and in scenes of domestic life. These works not only represent a lesser-known aspect of her practice, but connect with her training in Paris and her enduring interest in modern European painting. Admission is free.

On view from 2 December 2023 to 7 April 2024, the Gallery’s popular annual Zurich Portrait Prize is open to artists working in all disciplines and media, and draws hundreds of entries from across the island of Ireland, and abroad, each year. Running in tandem, the Zurich Young Portrait Prize is an inclusive art competition for young people, up to the age of 18, of all abilities, from across the island of Ireland, with the aim of supporting creativity, originality and self-expression in children and young people. 

The Gallery’s 2023 exhibitions education programme will comprise free tailored tours for school, community and access groups, ISL (Irish Sign Language) tours, inclusive accessible public tours, free introductory talks for all exhibitions with ISL interpretation and close captioning, accessible introductory videos and allocation of tickets for community partners. Aside from exhibitions, a diverse year-round public programme is dedicated to exploring the collection, the building and the archives. Programmes take place onsite; online with digital programming; and offsite through outreach activity, too.

Media contact:

Emma Pearson, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / [email protected] / 087 918 7941
Tanya Lawless, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected]   

Notes to Editor:

•    Images are available on request, email [email protected]

2023 Exhibition listings:

Turner: The Henry Vaughan Bequest
Print Gallery | Curator: Niamh MacNally | Free admission
1 – 31 January 2023
Proudly supported by Grant Thornton, Turner Exhibitions Partner.

James Coleman: Still Life, 2013-2016
Sir Hugh Lane Room (Room 31) | Free admission
21 January - 8 October 2023

St Dymphna. The Tragedy of an Irish Princess
Grand Gallery |Free admission
28 January - 28 May 2023
This exhibition has been organised in partnership with The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp.

Pastel Revealed
Print Gallery | Free admission
25 February - 5 June 2023

Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker
Beit Wing (Rooms 6 – 10) | Admission charge
6 May - 27 August 2023
Proudly supported by Bank of America, Exhibition Partner.

Print Gallery | Free admission
8 July - 12 November 2023

Lavery. On Location
Beit Wing (Rooms 6 – 10) | Admission charge
7 October 2023 - 14 January 2024
An exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in collaboration with National Museums NI and National Galleries of Scotland.

Sarah Purser: Private Worlds
Sir Hugh Lane Room (Room 31) | Free admission
21 October 2023 - 25 February 2024
Supported by ESB, sponsor of the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art.

Zurich Portrait Prize 2023
Portrait Gallery | Free admission
2 December 2023 – 7 April 2024
Sponsored by Zurich Insurance plc.

Zurich Young Portrait Prize 2023
Portrait Gallery | Free admission
2 December 2023 – 7 April 2024
Sponsored by Zurich Insurance plc.

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