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Dublin City Councillor says Dublin has ‘moral right’ to Hugh Lane’s collection of priceless paintings

monet-n
Claude Monet 1840 – 1926 ‘Lavacourt under Snow’ (Photo: National Gallery, London)

A SET of impressionist paintings once owned by Irish-born art collector Sir Hugh Lane is at the centre of a renewed dispute calling for its return from London to Dublin as Ireland prepares for its Easter Rising centenary celebrations.

In the most recent chapter of the 100-year-long controversy over the collection, which includes 38 works by artists including Monet and Renoir, politicians in Dublin have re-launched an appeal for London’s National Gallery to hand over the works.

Lane was one of the 1,198 people who died on board the RMS Lusitania in 1915 after it was sunk by a German submarine.

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In his will, he left the collection to the National Gallery in London, but it was later discovered that he had made an amendment to his will, in which he had wanted the paintings to be transferred to the National Gallery in Dublin.

As the amendment was signed by Lane but not witnessed, London’s National Gallery maintained the legal rights to the collection.

In 1979, a 40-year deal was agreed to loan a substantial part of the collection to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

But the agreement is approaching expiry, and Dublin city representatives are calling for the paintings to be officially returned to Ireland.

Fianna Fáil councillor Jim O’Callaghan brought forward a motion to formally request the paintings’ return, and as The Irish Post went to print, Dublin City Council were preparing to formally debate the issue in the capital.

Mr Callaghan said the London National Gallery should recognise that “the moral right to these paintings rests in Dublin.”

“I think it is important that the political representatives of the city of Dublin indicate that they believe the paintings should be returned to their rightful home.

“Once the current agreement is up I think the fairest arrangement would be for the paintings to be returned to their proper home.”

The return of the paintings would be a great coup for the Ireland, as the country celebrates the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery in London said that the agreement between the two galleries had been in place for years.

“An amicable agreement between the National Gallery, London and Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin regarding these paintings has been in place for many years,” she said.

The National Gallery did not confirm what would happen to the collection once the agreement expires in 2019.

Under the 1979 deal, the works were divided into two groups, with 30 pictures given on loan to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and eight paintings remaining in London.

A subsequent deal in 1993 split the eight paintings in London into two groups, which were displayed on a rotative basis in Dublin and London for six years stints.

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Nemesha Balasundaram
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Nemesha Balasundaram is a Reporter with The Irish Post. Follow her on Twitter @nemeshaB

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