24 November 2021
By Elaine Murphy
Cork Cities Crawford Art Gallery recently announced a major donation of artworks from The Port of Cork Company to the National Collection.
The significant collection amassed over years, consists of 17 maritime paintings, including works from George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson (1806-1884), Henry Albert Hartland, Robert Lowe Stopford, and Seán Keating RHA. Also included in the generous donation are a Ship’s Register (1912) from The Cork Harbour Commissioners which includes a page showing the Titanic and Lusitania, an illuminated address to CS Parnell (1889) and a silver Admiralty Oar (1686).
Most notable among the collection are 11 maritime paintings by George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson. A former ship’s carpenter, Atkinson painted marine views and vessels that provide great insights into the shipping of the time and glimpses of a thriving harbour.
In recognising the gift, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D., said “ I wish to thank the Port of Cork for this generous donation to the National Collection. This gift further augments the Crawford Art Gallery’s rich collection which has expanded in recent times, providing a wealth of maritime paintings for the public to enjoy.”
As the offices of the Port of Cork Company move from the city centre, the custodianship of this collection will now be vested in Crawford Art Gallery where it can be widely appreciated by visitors, researchers, and other institutions. The building which now houses the Crawford Art Gallery, was originally built, in 1724, as Cork’s Custom House and recalls the ties between commercial success of the port and the development of Cork city in the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This donation to the Crawford Art Gallery significantly enhances the Gallery’s maritime collection and greatly strengthens the connection to the building’s maritime past. The Gallery expects to exhibit a selection of these paintings in 2022 and to make them available for research.
On the donation, Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cork commented “We consider this to be a very fine collection and one that would be extraordinarily difficult to replicate. The collection contains a number of extremely rare and historically important items which would be highly unlikely to ever appear on the open market again – in particular the silver Court of Admiralty Oar of Cork Harbour dating to 1686, which is unique without comparison and therefore irreplaceable. This donation to the Crawford Art Gallery will further preserve Cork’s maritime heritage.”
Rose McHugh, Chair of Crawford Art Gallery, stated that “The Gallery welcomed this fantastic addition to the collection, which will ensure that Crawford Art Gallery, a National Cultural Institution, can continue to build its collection and share our rich maritime history for generations to come.
Mary McCarthy, Director of Crawford responding to the news said “This generous donation adds significantly to the already extensive maritime collection at Crawford Art Gallery. We are deeply grateful to The Port of Cork and excited to continue to tell relevant maritime stories across the centuries to our visitors. The Gallery can also offer unparalleled opportunities to researchers and other institutions on Cork’s maritime history.”
The Crawford Art Gallery collection now comprises over 3,000 works, ranging from eighteenth-century Irish and European painting and sculpture to contemporary film and photography. At the heart of the collection are the Canova Casts, which were brought to Cork in 1818 from the Vatican Museums in Rome.
As well as the purchase and receipt of donated artworks throughout the years, the collection has been greatly enhanced and expanded through the Gibson Bequest (1919), Fr. McGrath Bequest (1998), Great Southern Collection (2006), and part of the AIB Art Collection (2012). Most recently Crawford Art Gallery expanded its collection of contemporary works by adding 39 artists, this was made possible through Department funding.