Anne Crookshank’s achievements

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Anne Crookshank Photo©Brendan Dempsey

Although the foundation of the History of Art department in TCD was undoubtedly the major achievement in Anne Crookshank’s long and distinguished academic career, she will probably be best remembered for the landmark publication in 1978 of Painters of Ireland c. 1660-1920, with Desmond FitzGerald, the Knight of Glin. It is hard to credit now that she could claim in the introduction to that volume that ‘there has been no general book of any substance on Irish painting since the monumental Dictionary of Irish Artists by WG Strickland and this, because it was published as long ago as 1913, is virtually unillustrated’. But such indeed was the depressing truth. So Painters of Ireland was conceived not as a dictionary but ‘written as a simple chronological account of the history and development of Irish painting and with the hope that this book may do something to dispel the rather negative opinions usually held about Irish painting’. And with 285 generous illustrations, many in colour, it did just that.

Crookshank did well to acknowledge Strickland who provided much original material for the later publication. Walter Strickland was Registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland for twenty years from 1894 to 1914 and was ideally situated to catalogue the lives of Irish artists, engravers and sculptors in his groundbreaking Dictionary which however contained no illustrations of the artists’ works. In 2002 Crookshank and FitzGerald published an updated and extended version of Painters under the title of Ireland’s Painters 1600-1940. Not only did this volume very considerably increase the number of artists considered but the book itself was produced to a much higher quality by Yale University Press lavishly illustrated in full colour reproductions.

In the introduction to this volume, Desmond FitzGerald also credits Theo Snoddy’s considerable research in his Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century, published in 1996. He also wrote: ‘The journal, The Irish Arts Review, founded by Brian de Breffny in 1984, has encouraged many to write for its well-illustrated pages. In many cases research done in the Art History departments of Trinity College, University College and the National College of Art and Design has been first published in it.’

We salute the memory of these pioneers in the proper appreciation of the work of Irish artists which the Irish Arts Review continues to emulate in contemporary fashion.
JM

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