Powerscourt House

County Wicklow, Ireland

Burned 1974

The Disappointed Tourist: Powerscourt House, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

I gave the submission for Powerscourt House because I would have loved to have seen the paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds that were lost to the tragic fire in 1974. In particular these paintings had once been loaned to Sir Hugh Lane at one time for an exhibition and a letter of which exists in our National Library of Ireland. The same Hugh Lane who died tragically in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania which propelled America to join the First World War. and who created the first Modern and Contemporary Art Museum in Ireland, now called The Hugh Lane Gallery. The paintings are a great loss to our national collection and were often loaned for exhibitions curated by Lane. I would have loved to have seen the work of this “grand style” painter who focused the subjects of his work on the imperfect. The paintings hung here in the great hall in Powerscourt which has been rebuilt as a hotel and fancy golf course on the grounds of the vast estate. There is something rather imperfect about the remodel which is not true to the original great halls and banquet rooms’ original splendor so perhaps an ethos or romantically a haunting by the works of Reynolds exists within this idea of the imperfect rebuild. Aideen B.

In 1730, the 1st Viscount Powerscourt commissioned the German-born architect Richard Castle to build Powerscourt House, a 68 room Palladian mansion surrounding the site’s original castle. The house was completed in 1741; a second story was added in 1787 and additional alterations were made in the 19th Century. The house contained some of the finest 18th century interiors in Ireland and was considered to be one of the country’s most beautiful country houses. In 1961, the Slazenger family purchased the Estate from the 9th Viscount Powerscourt and opened the gardens to the public. On November 4th, 1974  the newly renovated house caught fire destroying all the main rooms, leaving only the stone walls. The house stood empty for 20 years before being restored in 1996. It is now open to the public. This painting is based on a black and white photograph. I have not been able to figure out who took the photograph.