The sad death of Homan Potterton recalls his achievements as the director of the National Gallery of Ireland. Beginning in June 1980, when he was just thirty-three, he accomplished a great deal, not only purchasing significant pictures, but also writing fully researched catalogues for the gallery’s collection, which had never been done before. With money from the Shaw Fund, he arranged the purchase of 90 Merrion Square, an important addition to the gallery’s requirements.
His capacity for friendship was invaluable; from Sir Alfred and Lady Beit he negotiated the acquisition of paintings, including the Vermeer and the Velázquez, and Goya’s Doña Zárate. He also arranged the introduction of Denis Mahon’s collection of Italian 17th-century paintings to the NGI.
Throughout his directorship, the gallery was sadly under-resourced, with insufficient staff and money. After only seven years he had had enough and resigned.
In due course, his numerous publications would include two entertaining memoirs, Rathcormick, A Childhood Recalled (2001) and Who do you think I am? – the latter published in 2017 as a detailed account of his years at the NGI. He was editor of the Irish Arts Review from 1995-2002 and, in later years, he divided his time between London and the south of France.
Rest in peace.
10 December 2020