This autumn in the Irish Georgian Society will host the first major exhibition of drawings by the English architectural artist John Nankivell in Ireland.
Through the 1970s and 1980s John Nankivell spent many long summers exploring Ireland and drawing all sorts of buildings but with a particular focus on decaying country houses. The resulting drawings are not just very beautiful works of art in their own right, but also invaluable historical and architectural documents, as John sketched houses which have since disappeared or approached even further a state of ruin. The artworks highlight the plight of many grand country houses now lost to decay such as Castle Pollard in Westmeath to Eyrecourt in Co. Galway, and some positive instances where houses were later saved, like Ledwithstown House in Co. Westmeath.
A great admirer of Nankivell’s work was the Poet Laureate and architectural connoisseur, Sir John Betjeman – who, of course, knew Ireland well. Betjeman’s biographer Bevis Hillier: explained the magical quality of Nankivell’s art. ‘Though the buildings were depicted with careful detail, there was something about the perspective — a hardly perceptible distortion — that saved the drawings from being drily academic; it was as if the buildings were reflected in a lake with a slight shiver across its surface’. The co-founder of the Irish Georgian Society, Desmond Guinness, wrote many years ago: ‘I have rarely seen such sensitive and accurate architectural drawings’
A number of Nankivell’s drawings will be for sale, to raise funds for the Irish Georgian Society’s conservation education programmes. An accompanying illustrated catalogue (€35), edited by architectural historian Kevin V. Mulligan will be available to serve as a lasting piece of scholarship on the exhibition.
The exhibition will be free to the public.
(Image: Eyre Court, Co. Galway)