Donegal Visual Arts
Cultural History, Tory Island Painters and Art Museums.

County Donegal, Ulster Province
Republic of Ireland.

Visual Arts in County Donegal

The northernmost county on the island of Ireland, and situated in the province of Ulster, County Donegal (Dun na nGall) has a population of 137,575 and its capital is Lifford. The county is famous for its Slieve League cliffs (the tallest sea cliffs in Europe), as well as its huge areas of bogland with its unique flora and fauna. The county's history dates from 7,000 BCE. Like Galway and Kerry, Donegal contains several Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas, except the dialect here is of West Ulster.

Note: Donegal artist Patsy
Dan Rodgers, one of the great
figures in Irish art.

For a list of buildings, see:
Architectural Monuments Ireland and
Archeological Monuments Ireland.

Note: For the history of Celtic culture
and examples of ancient metalwork
created by the first Celts, see:
Celtic Art. For a guide to the earliest
styles, which influenced so many
Irish draughtsmen and metalworkers
during the renaissance of the early
Christian era, see: Hallstatt (800-450)
and La Tene (c.450-50 BCE).

Tory Island

Donegal's Gaeltacht includes the rugged Tory Island, situated nine miles off the Donegal coast. Tory occupies a unique position in the history of Irish art, being home to the school of Tory Island Primitive Landscape Painting. Noted painters include: Patsai Dan Mac Ruaidhri (Patsy Dan Rodgers), the present Rí Thoraí (King of Tory); his nephew Rory Rodgers, Anton Meehan and the English landscape and portrait artist Derek Hill, who "discovered" the famous Tory primitive painter James Dixon (1887-1970), and encouraged the activities of the Tory artist school. Their plein-air paintings are represented in many art collections in Ireland and overseas.

Other Famous Donegal Artists

As well as Tory Island painters, Donegal's list of famous Irish artists contains such names as: Stephen McKenna, (Classical, Still Lifes, Interiors and Landscapes); Comhghall Casey, (Still Lifes, Self-Portraits and Landscapes); Carey Clarke, (Watercolour Landscapes); Jacinta Feeney, (Semi-Abstract Oil Paintings); Denise Ferran, (Watercolourist and Museum Curator); Sean Fingleton, (Landscape Artist Renowned for his Impasto Canvases); Josephine Kelly, (Contemporary Landscape-Inspired Artist); Janet Pierce, (Mixed-Media Artist influenced by Abstract Impressionism); Ann Quinn, (Contemporary Artist); Mary Theresa Keown, (Contemporary Artist); Redmond Herrity (Sculptor); Sharon McDaid (Textile Artist and Designer); John Darch (Landscape and Seascape Artist and Architectural Photographer); Johnny Gallagher (Photographer); and other artists like Ian Gordon, Kevin Sharkey and Aoife Vallely.

Art Galleries and Centres

County Donegal has numerous visual arts venues. An usual example is Glebe House and Gallery, a Regency house set in gardens and decorated with William Morris Wallpaper and textiles. As well as numerous items of Islamic and Japanese art, it houses the Derek Hill permanent collection of works by leading twentieth century artists, including Picasso, plus some Italian Old Masters. (Phone 074-9137071.)

Other art venues include: the wonderful Gaeltacht arts centre An Gailearai, as well as Cavanacor Gallery; Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny (074 9129186); Ace of Arts, Letterkenny (074-9129175); Ross Fine Art, Ramelton; Ferguson Gallery, Ramelton (074-9151363); Cristeph Gallery, Letterkenny, (074-9126411); as well as Man-Made Images Photographic Art Gallery, Mountcharles County Donegal (074-9735928).

Heritage, Cultural Centres and Arts Museums in Donegal

The town of Ardara on the south-west coast of Donegal - a centre for Donegal arts and crafts - is home to the Ardara Heritage Centre housing an Art Gallery and Irish sculpture exhibition area. Visitors can learn the story of the Donegal tweed craft from the shearing of the sheep to the completion of the woven cloth.

Flight of the Earls Centre
In 1607, the great exodus of nobility took place from Rathmullan harbour. This led to the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland and within two years the plantation of Ulster began. The story is dramatically told in the centre at Rathmullan using models, artifacts, crafts, extracts from literature and stained glass art.

Glencolumbkille Folk Museum
Conceived by the late Fr James McDyer, the museum was set up to preserve the area's strong cultural and artistic traditions. The heart of the museum consists of three reconstructed houses, one from 1700, another from 1850 and the third from 1900.

St Conal's Museum
Named after the saint who brought Christianity to West Donegal in the 6th century, St Conal's Museum has a good collection of artifacts from the narrow gauge County Donegal Railways, including many old photographs and examples of poster art.

• For more about Irish culture, see: Ireland Visual Arts.
• For more about the historical heritage of the 32 counties, see: Homepage.
• For a list of the top living painters in Ireland, see: Best Irish Artists/Painters.
• For details of art venues in Ireland, see: Irish Art Galleries.

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