William Burton Conyngham and His Irish Circle of Antiquarian Artists


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Peter Harbison

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In the midst of a resurgence of pride in Ireland's history during the 18th century, William Burton, later Conyngham (1733-1796), strove to emulate his British counterparts in producing albums of engravings illustrating the beauties of the country's heritage. To further his aims, he formed the Hibernian Antiquarian Society, which lasted only four years due to internal strife. Nevertheless, Burton Conyngham began acquiring drawings of antiquities, and then commissioned Gabriel Beranger and his fellow artists Angelo Bigari and John James Barralet to make sketches of dolmens, churches, abbeys, and castles in areas which were not represented in existing works.

In its day, Burton Conyngham's was regarded as the most significant collection of such drawings in Ireland. This volume reconstructs that collection, cataloguing more than 600 drawings, which he was known to have secured by about 1780. Also presented in this monograph is the considerable number of copies that were made of the original works as security against damage to the collective whole or the death of its owner.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Peter Harbison is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and its honorary academic editor.

“In a book embellished with etchings, watercolours, plans, elevations and drawings, the career of Burton Conyngham is followed in great detail. Peter Harbison RIA has raked and sieved through the archives and histories devoted to the activities of this one man and his colleagues, beginning with his service with the Wide Streets Commissioners in Dublin from 1772. Harbison refers diligently and often with pleasure to current authorities on the personalities and achievements of these several circles […] It is in his work as an antiquarian, collector of old drawings and paintings of ancient monuments and a records of what was at the point of decline that Conyngham made one of his lasting bequests to Ireland’s cultural heritage, and this is the core subject of Harbison’s fine monograph.”—Mary Leland, Irish Examiner.

ISBN: 9780300180725
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
244 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/4
100 color + 20 b/w illus.