Lavery, Turner and trailblazing women at the National Gallery

Highlights of the 2023 exhibition line-up include Europe’s first commercially successful female artist and the pioneering Irish artist Sarah Purser

Tomorrow Sunday November 27th, marks the last day of Keating’s Allegories of Change in the Lower Milltown Room at the National Gallery on Merrion Square.

Curated by Dr Brendan Rooney, the painting, An Allegory by Sean Keating, is central to the exhibit marking the conclusion of the Decade of Centenaries.

The show highlights Keating’s role as a political commentator on one of the most turbulent times in Irish history and features portraits of nationalist figures by the artist alongside William Orpen’s The Holy Well.

The line-up for next year highlights some trailblazing women, with solo exhibitions of paintings by 16th-century Bolognese artist Lavinia Fontana – Europe’s first commercially successful female artist – and the pioneering Irish artist Sarah Purser.


Turner: The Henry Vaughan Bequest, returns to the gallery for the month of January, with 31 works from the English collector with five additional watercolours. A major exhibition, Turner: The Sun is God, featuring 89 works on loan from the Tate collection in London, will run concurrently and continue until February.

From the end of February until early June, Pastel Revealed will showcase the Gallery’s collection of pastels, with works spanning four centuries. The exhibition will highlight how the technique of using pastels has changed over time, with works by Edgar Degas, Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Harry Kernoff and Brian Bourke.

A major summer show, in conjunction with Bank of America, is Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker, which will run in the Beit Wing from early May to late August.

Considered to be a groundbreaking artist for her time, the 16th century Bolognaise painter is widely acknowledged to be the first woman artist to achieve professional success beyond the court or indeed the convent.

She was the first woman to paint large scale public altarpieces and female nudes, the first documented woman artist to have her own workshop, and the first woman to be accepted into the prestigious Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

The exhibition will showcase the recently conserved Renaissance masterpiece The Visit of Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, from the Gallery’s own collection alongside regarded works from private and public collections worldwide.

Lavery on Location is the highlight of the Gallery’s autumn programme, which will run from early October until January 2024.

It showcases works by the internationally renowned Irish artist – and the only Irishman to receive the Freedom of both Dublin and Belfast during the interwar period – with works from collections at National Museums NI and National Galleries of Scotland depicting paintings produced in Switzerland, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Scotland.

Also running from October is Sarah Purser: Private Worlds. The artist overcame the many restrictions placed on women of her time to play a pivotal role in the development of modern Irish art. The exhibition will present a selection of some of her finest oils, and lesser-known works showcasing her fascination with modern European painting.

There will be free introductory talks for all exhibitions, tours for schools and community groups in addition to ISL (Irish Sign Language) tours and onsite and online programmes.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables