Sir William Orpen’s portrait of John McCormack on loan to town this Christmas

Luan Gallery will host an exhibition featuring the portrait of John Count McCormack by Sir William Orpen, on loan from the National Gallery of Ireland.

The exhibition will open to the public on Thursday, December 17, and continue until Sunday, January 10, 2016. The People’s Tenor, a documentary produced by Martin Dwan about the life and phenomenal career of John McCormack, will accompany the Orpen portrait.

Sir William Orpen was a portrait and subject painter and is recognised as one of the greatest Irish portrait artists. He was born in 1878 in Stillorgan, Dublin, and was based in London as a student and while he forged a successful career. He returned to Ireland regularly and also taught at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where he had a significant influence on many Irish artists.

He was one of the official war artists sent to France during WWI and produced pieces depicting the brutal reality of what he experienced. Councillor Tom Farrell, Mayor of Athlone Municipal District, said: “We are thrilled to be given this opportunity by the National Gallery of Ireland to bring the great Sir William Orpen’s portrait of John McCormack to Athlone.

Manager of Athlone Arts and Tourism, Carmel Duffy, said: “When this work was acquired by the National Gallery in 2009, Christies described it as one of the best paintings by Orpen to come to the market in many years. In the portrait, McCormack sits, relaxed in crumpled tennis togs holding a music score in his hand. The red pin on his lapel is the Légion d’Honneur which McCormack received in 1924 and Orpen added to the portrait retrospectively.

“McCormack gazes out at the viewer with a somewhat melancholy expression, in a convincing, informal pose. This portrait, painted in the summer of 1923, is the result of a collaboration of two artistic titans. It is truly a great work and it is truly wonderful to exhibit it here in Athlone’s Luan Gallery.”

A programme of events is currently being organised by the Luan Gallery team and will feature a series of talks and guided tours which will celebrate the lives and talents of William Orpen and John Count McCormack.

A private viewing will take place before the exhibition opens to the public on Thursday, December 17. Admission to the gallery is free for groups and individuals. Tours and workshops for groups and schools can be arranged by contacting the gallery in advance on (090 ) 6442154. Luan Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm, on Sunday from 12 noon to 5pm.

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