The celebrities championing the works of art in RTÉ’s Masterpiece campaign to discover Ireland’s favourite painting may be better known than the artists.
For Adi Roche, Louis le Brocquy’s painting A Family, is a clear winner, while Joe Duffy backs Jack B Yeats’s Communicating With Prisoners.
Both are among the 10 finalists in the five-week campaign that highlights some of the greatest works of art on view in Ireland.
Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ has particular resonance for snooker player Ken Doherty. “Coming from a humble background, I never knew very much about art. I couldn’t even paint the front door. I was terrible at art — I gave it up in school and everything.
“It was only when I became a snooker player and on trips to Malta I was taken to a church there where Caravaggio has three masterpieces. They told me he had been in exile in Malta because he had killed a man in a sword fight over a game of tennis, apparently.
“When I say to other players I’m interested in art they say pull the other one — but it’s only because of this Caravaggio painting that I became interested.”
A Convent Garden by William John Leech, is the favourite of Sr Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland, who says she always found the National Gallery a haven to escape from the pressures of work.
1. In Communicating With Prisoners, 1924, by Jack B Yeats
— A group of seven women and one boy, wearing a variety of hats, listen to a shout from one of a group of prisoners looking out from the top of Kilmainham jail, its bulk balanced in the foreground on the left by a surprising billboard of colourful posters.
2. Hellelil And Hildebrand: The Meeting On The Turret Stairs, 1864, by Frederic William Burton
— Watercolour depicting Danish princess Hellelil and her soldier boy Hildebrand, meeting on the stone stairway of a tower. This is their final embrace.
3. A Family, 1951, by Louis le Brocquy
— One of the artist’s so-called grey paintings, it offers a melancholy view of a family. Inspired by Manet’s Olympia, it was painted against the backdrop of nuclear threat, post-war upheaval, and the refugees crisis in the late 1940s.
4. A Lady Writing A Letter, With Her Maid, circa 1670, by Johannes Vermeer
— While a maidservant is staring out of the window, her mistress is writing a letter. One of a number of paintings by Vermeer depicting women in domestic settings.
5. The Eve Of St Agnes, 1923, by Harry Clarke
— A stained-glass window depicting Keats’s poem The Eve of St Agnes, based upon the myth that a young girl would see a vision of her future lover if she performed certain rites on the eve of St Agnes’ Day.
6. The Artist’s Studio, 1913, by John Lavery
— Set in Lavery’s studio in Cromwell Place, London, it features Lavery’s second wife Hazel and his stepdaughter Alice sitting together, his daughter Eileen leaning on a piano beside them, and their Moroccan maid Aida carrying a salver of fruit.
7. A Convent Garden, 1913, by William John Leech
— Set in the garden of a hospital run by the Sisters of Holy Ghost in Corcarneau, where Leech was recovering having contracted typhoid in 1904. The model for the figure was Leech’s first wife, Elizabeth Saurine Kerlin.
8. Wall Of Light Orange Yellow, 2000, by Sean Scully
— A raw and potent painting, it was inspired by a journey the artist made to Mexico where Scully was particularly struck by how light fell on the walls of ancient Mayan ruins.
9. A Connemara Village, 1934, by Paul Henry
— A cluster of whitewashed cottages form part of the view east from the quay on the Clifden Rd, near Letterfrack, Co Galway,. The mountain in the background is Doughruagh.
10. The Taking of Christ, 1602, by Caravaggio
— Caravaggio brings emotion, drama and beauty to the story of the Passion. A master of light, his remarkable body of work had a huge influence on the painters who followed him.
* Closing day for the public to vote is Friday, May 18. The winning painting will be revealed on May 24.
Voting can be completed online or by freepost to: Ireland’s Favourite Painting, RTÉ, Freepost, Dublin 4.
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