Visual Arts in Meath
Cultural History, Book of Kells, Famous Stone Age Architecture at Newgrange, Sculpture, Tara Brooch and Art Museums.

County Meath, Leinster Province,
Republic of Ireland.

Visual Arts in County Meath

Lying north-west of Dublin and south of County Louth in the province of Leinster, County Meath (An Mhi, meaning "middle") has a population of 134,005 and its capital is Navan.

Early Visual Arts

As far as its connection with the history of Irish art is concerned, County Meath is home to numerous ancient artworks from prehistoric times, together with several outstanding examples of monastic art from the early Christian era (550-900 CE).

Aerial View of Newgrange Neolithic
Passage Tomb. One of Ireland's most
famous megaliths and now a UN
World Heritage Site

Newgrange World Heritage Site

County Meath is home to the foremost example of Stone Age Irish art namely, the Newgrange megalithic tomb, with its complex megalithic art featuring engravings of spiral and lozenge motifs and a rare triple spiral motif. Part of the Brú na Bóinne prehistoric complex, Newgrange was built 500 years before the Great Egyptian Pyramid of Giza in about 3200 BCE. According to Stone Age art experts, Newgrange needed a workforce of 300, for about 20 years to finish the construction. Near Newgrange are other passage graves, the largest being the Knowth megalithic tomb.

Canal Scene in Venice, by Meath
artist Letitia Hamilton.

Note: For an introduction to Celtic
and the ancient artifacts of
the Celts, see: Celtic Art. For facts
about the two earliest styles, which
influenced so many Irish artists
during the golden age of the early
Christian era in Ireland, see:
Hallstatt (c.800-450 BCE) and
La Tene (c.450-50 BCE).

For a list of national sites of
noted historical, architectural or
artistic significance, see:
Architectural Monuments Ireland and
Archeological Monuments Ireland.

Book of Kells

The great Abbey of Kells in County Meath was the sanctuary during medieval times for one of the finest masterpieces of Irish art, namely the Book of Kells (Leabhar Cheanannais). Produced by Irish scribes in about 800 CE, this famous illuminated manuscript is also known as the Book of Columba, or the Gospel of Colum Cille. It is one of the best surviving examples of the Hiberno-Saxon style or Insular art, and is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland.

Medieval Sculpture

The Meath monastery of Kells - founded in the early ninth century by monks from St Colmcille's major monastery on Iona - is also the site of three surviving Celtic High Crosses. High Crosses are considered to be one of the great Irish contributions to Western sculpture. In addition to its public cross-sculpture, Kells monastery also boasts an outstanding Round Tower, some 82 feet in height.

Celtic Metalwork

The size and reputation of the Kells Abbey, together with traces of its medieval metal forges, suggests that its early Christian artist-monks and Celtic craftsmen would have produced a range of metal religious treasures and book-illuminations. This Celtic metalworking skill produced masterpieces like the Tara Brooch, which was discovered near Bettystown, in County Meath.


Famous Artists

Celebrated Meath-born Irish artists include: William Louis Beaufort, (Landscapes and Outdoor Scenes); Micheal Farrell, (Contemporary Artist); Letitia Hamilton, (Landscapes); John Cassidy, (Public Sculptor); Martin Cregan, (Portraitist); Henry McGrane (plein-air landscapes, still life), Eva Hamilton, (Portraiture and Landscapes). Another Meath-based artist is the silkscreen printmaker Aidan Flanagan.

Art Program and Galleries

County Meath has a wide-ranging program of arts and culture, including painting, sculpture, installation and video art, as well as the performing arts like music and drama. Among its numerous art galleries are: Ratoath Art Gallery, Ratoath (01-802-7763); Solstice Arts Centre, Navan (046-9092300); Toradh Gallery, Ashbourne (01-835-8014).

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

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