[Sir] Hugh Lane (1875-1915)

[Hugh Percy Lane]; art collector and critic, b. Ballybrack, Co. Cork, nephew of Lady Gregory, fifth son of a clergyman, his mother being a Persse; joined Colnaghi’s London picture dealers, 1893; worked for Marlborough Gallery, and set up independently, 2 Pall Mall Place, 1898; met Yeats, 1901, attended joint exhibition of Yeats père and Nathaniel Hone; provided Loan Exhibition of Old Masters to Dublin, 1902, and Loan Exhibition of French Impressionists, Dec. 1904; proposed their purchase as basis for a Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin;
accused by Arthur Griffith, William Martin Murphy, and others of self-seeking motives; ultimately donated the Impressionist paintings to found the Metropolitan [var. Municipal] Gallery in Dublin, 1908, presenting it with 154 works, at first hung in Clonmell House, 17 Harcourt St. and later at Charlemont Hse., Parnell Sq.; knighted, 1909; withdrew 39 paintings when Dublin City Council [Corporation] rejected Sir Edward Lutyens design for a Liffey bridge gallery, 1913; appt. Director of Irish National Gallery, 1914; he was drowned with others on board the Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a U-boat on 7 May 1915, off Cork coast;
the controversy of rights to the paintings, in which Lady Gregory and Thomas Bodkin supported for the Irish claim, concerned his 1913 will and a unwitnessed codicil of 1915 in which he returned them to Dublin; subsequently his pictures were divided into two groups, alternately to be housed in Dublin and London, under terms of an agreement reached in 1959; there is a drawing by John Butler Yeats (Aug 1905) in the National Gallery of Ireland and another by John Singer Sargeant (1906) in the Municipal Gallery, which was renamed in his honour in 1975; also a seated portrait by Sir Gerald Festus Kelly in Crawford Gallery, Cork; Yeats commemorated him in his polemic lyic “September 1913” and remembers his legacy in “Municipal Gallery Revisited”; some of his paintings were listed in the manifest of the Lusitania [see infra]. ODNB DIB OCIL

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  • Lady Gregory, Hugh Lane’s Pictures (priv. 1918).
  • Lady Gregory’s Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement (London: John Murray, Albemerle St; NY:E.P. Dutton 1921), xv, 290pp.; Do. [rep. edn.] as Sir Hugh Lane: His Life and Legacy, forward by James White (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1973), 324pp., ill. [facs., ports.].
  • Thomas Bodkin, Hugh Lane and His Pictures (Dublin 1934).
  • Barbara Dawson, ‘Hugh Lane and the Origins of the Collection’, in Images and Insights: Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, ed. Dawson (1993).
  • Robert O’Byrne, Hugh Lane: 1875-1915 (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2000), 279pp.
  • Anne Kelly, ‘The Lane Bequest’, in Journal of the History of Collections, 16, 1 (May 2004), pp.89-110.
  • Barbara Dawson, The Continental Pictures: Hugh Lane 100 Years [exhibition cat.] (Dublin: Hugh Lane Gallery [2008]), 99pp., ills. [chiefly col.; ports. [contains. catalogue, pp.8-85; list of works at Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, 1908 (pp.86-93) [see infra].
  • Barbara Dawson, et al. Hugh Lane, Founder of the Gallery of Modern Art for Ireland (London: Scala 2008), 206pp., ill. [see details].

See also Lucy McDiarmid, The Irish Art of Controversy (Cornell UP; Dublin: Lilliput Press 2005), and Adrian Frazier, ‘Napoleon in a Dress: Robert O’Byrne, Hugh Lane’ [review article], in The Irish Review (Summer 2001), pp.168-79.

Related titles
  • Sir Hugh Lane's pictures. Report of a committee appointed to consider certain questions relating to thirty-nine pictures bequeathed under the will of the late Sir Hugh Lane [Cmd. 2684 XIII] (Cambridge 1926), 8pp.

Bibliographical details
Barbara Dawson, ed. [assisted by Logan Sisley, Jessica O'Donnell and Michael Dempsey], Hugh Lane: Founder of a Gallery of Modern Art for Ireland [Cat. of Hugh Lane 100 years, Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane, Dublin] (London: Scala 2008), 206pp., ill. CONTENTS: Foreword / Barbara Dawson. Essays: Hugh Lane's pictures / Dawson; ‘A family affair': Lane, Gregory, Yeats and educating the nation 150 / Roy Foster; Hugh Lane: the man and his milieu / Robert O'Byrne; Lane's choices: Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Puvis de Chavannes / Philip McEvansoneya; Looking at Lane from the Continent / Christopher Riopelle; Hugh Lane's vision / Jessica O'Donnell; Hugh Lane’s collection 100 years on: the centenary conservation project / Joanna Shepard; New enlightenment for Charlemont House / Raymund Ryan; Charlemont House: a critical history / Sean O’Reilly; Lord Charlemont and his collections / John R. Redmill; After art: thoughts on looking at art / Niamh Ann Kelly. Catalogue : Irish painters (by birth or descent); British schools; Portraits of contemporary Irishmen and women; French Impressionists and others; French Barbizon school and others; Drawings and watercolours; Sculpture; Appendix 1: List of works by gallery. Appendix 2: Additional works shown in 1908. Appendix 3: ‘other men’s flowers’: list of works.

Hugh Lane’s life and achievement, with some account of the Dublin galleries. With illustrations. by Gregory Lady
Published: 1921, John Murray (London)
Contributions: William Clowes and Sons.
Pagination: xv, 290pp.
Subject: Lane, Sir Hugh Percy, 1875-1915.
Dublin (Ireland). Municipal Gallery of Modern Art
National Gallery of Ireland.
Internet Archive Bibliographical Record

[ Copy held in Univ. of California Libraries ]

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George Moore (in Hail and Fairwell), remarks that Lane was ‘going to revive Irish painting’; further, quotes an exchange with him, viz, “I am Lady Gregory’s nephew, and must be doing something for Ireland”, to which Moore: “Striking a blow”, I said. [...] he did not understand the remark.’ Moore shows Lane as a young man dressing in Lady Gregory’s clothes to her surprise, and exhibiting some seriousness about their tailoring (‘Doesn’t it seem to you, Aunt Augusta, that this skirt is a little too full?’ [...] but tailoring was only a passing thought, and the next thing they heard of Hugh was that he had gone into Colagnhi’s shop to learn the business of picture-dealing.’ [Vale, p.129]; further, ‘It is to Mr. Hugh Lane’s extraordinary enthusiasm, energy,and love of Art that we owe the pleasure of this beautiful collection ...’ [Vale, p.134].

Lady Gregory gave an account of Yeats’s reaction to the news that Count Plunkett had been appointed Curator of the Nat. Museum in place of Lane: ‘It was in his mind, one of the worst of crimes, that neglect to use the best man, the man of genius, in place of the timid obedent official. That use of the best man had been practised in the great days of the Renaiisance. He had grown calmer before my arrival.’ (Cited in A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary, 1984, p.125.)

Frank Pakenham (Lord Longford), Five Lives (1964), remarks on Hugh Lane: ‘the dazzling, mercurial picture dealer and picture lover, went down with the Lusitania in 1915 [...] an Irishman who made much of his reputation in England, and quarrelled impartially with the stupider elements in both countries at various times, had originally bequeathed his thirty-nine picture to the National Gallery [who] behaved in an elephantine way as had certain Irish authorities ... When he was drowned a codicil to his will was discovered, under which he gave effect to his deeper, that is to say his Irish, loyalty ... though signed in three places, it was not witnessed’; cites role of Thomas Bodkin (‘an even greater authority on pictures’) and others including crucially Bryan Moyne (Guinness, Lord Moyne).

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Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘A sensationally successful art dealer, Lane was a center of controversy in death as in life. He was suspected of selfish motives when he urged Dublin to buy masterpieces, and even when he offered his own collection to the city provided a suitable gallery be built. Obviously the bestqualified candidate for the curatorship of the National Museum, he was passed over in favor of the Papal Count George Plunkett, thereby provoking the first of Yeats’s topical poems, “An Appointment". [...] Even without the disputed pictures, Lane’s benefactions [66] were impressive, including more than sixty paintings of the traditional schools. Among them were canvasses by Bordone, Strozzi, and Poussin which provided images for Yeats’s poetry. In addition, Lane, inspired by Lady Gregory’s enthusiasm, commissioned John Butler Yeats, William Orpen, and others to paint portraits of Irish celebrities. These pictures reveal strong features, in which vigor and sensibility are blended. Seeing them, one understands the impact of these writers, actors, and political leaders on Irish culture, and senses the distinctively Irish and AngloIrish flavor of their personalities. In the eager gaze of iE as he peers through his spectacles Count Markievicz: creates an impression of this famed host who was as keen to hear the views of others as he was to express his own. J. B. Yeats caught in the relaxed figure of Synge, arms crossed, a faintly perceptible smile on his lips, the earthy humor and tragedy of his plays. Epstein’s bold head of Lady Gregory conveys her matronly strength. In the pencil sketch by J. B. Yeats the young poet Padraic Colum is wistfully meditative. Mancini’s bold use of chiaroscuro was admired by Synge, who, Yeats tells us in his poem on the Municipal Gallery, thought the Lady Gregory portrait the finest since Rembrandt. Even better is his monumental canvas depicting the sensitive and aristocratic figure of Lane himself.’ (pp.66-67.)

Brenda Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts: The Secret Life of W. B. Yeats (HarperCollins 1999), narrates Yeats’s attempt to contact Lane through a psychic medium in order to find the answer to the question of the codicil in 1915, finding the spirit of the departed anxious only to scotch the rumour of his manner of death: ‘An American survivor of the Lusitania had been telling people that [Sir Hugh] Lane had virtually committed suicide by wedging himself into the companion ladder as the ship was sinking. [...; 15] What the Lane “Control” asked of Yeats was to tell his aunt, Lady Gregory - immediately, in order to save her further distress - that he had tried as hard as all the rest of the passengers to save his life.’ (pp.15-16.)

Further (Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts, 1999): ‘An American survivor of the Lusitania had been telling people that [Sir Hugh] Lane had virtually committed suicide by wedging himself into the companion ladder as the ship was sinking [...]’ (p.15.)

Homan Potterton, review of Robert O’Byrne, Hugh Lane (Lilliput), in The Irish Times (21 Oct. 2000), recounts details: Municipal Gallery renamed after him as a tribute to his role, 1975; nine Impressionist paintings of the first rank; presented 24 pictures to the Gallery; O’Byrne discovered much Lane material in NLI, much acquired in the mid-1980s as a gift from a cousin of Lane, and later by purchased from the cousin’s son; son of Protestant clergyman; port. by Mancini; compulsive gambler; threw away thousands at Monte Carlo casino; fastidious, occasionally querulous and tactless; imperfect education; unable to write about art; his love of Ireland shaped by Lady Gregory resulted in his believing he ‘must do something for it’; later came to ‘hate the place and the people’.


Wake-up call: ‘I am trying to wake up these sleepy Irish painters to do great things.’ (Quoted in Lady Gregory, Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement, London 1921, p.44; cited S. B. Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism, Inst. Irish Studies 1991, p.4.)

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Lane Bequest: Lane proposed a Gallery in Dublin, one of the sites drawn up by Lutygens being planned for the Halfpenny Bridge and conceived as Venetian ‘Bridge of Tears’; the second to be erected on St. Stephen’s Green facing College of Surgeons; Lutygens sketches now held in Municipal Gallery; reproductions to be found in Bodkin’s Pictures, &c., and Lady Gregory’s Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement (1921); Dublin City Council not prepared to put up any money at all; much money raised in America; Hugh Lane Fund presented Lady Gregory with silver cup in recognition of her fund raising; Lane moved the pictures to London (NG), where they were dumped in the cellars; his will left the pictures to the National Gallery London; unwitnessed codicil found by Lady Gregory, found as result of clairvoyant search (see Yeats’s article on same, reprinted in Lady Gregory, Sir Hugh Lane: His Life and Legacy (1973) [err. 1974]; Lane pictures not displayed in Ireland until 1960s, having all been in England to that time; Lord Duveen, picture dealer, had given massive donation to Tate on condition the pictures stayed in Britain; case highlighted by in 1960s when a student filched a picture from the wall; settlement between British and Irish govts., resulting in sharing on five year rotation, continuing to this day. Bibl., Lady Gregory’s Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement (John Murray/EP Dutton 1921), and enlarged version, Sir Hugh Lane, His Life and Legacy [Coole Ed.] (Colin Smythe 1974); also Lady Gregory, Hugh Lane’s Pictures (1918), priv. printed. [synopsis supplied by Colin Smythe.]

Portraits: There is a drawing by John Butler Yeats, dated Aug 1905 (NGI; rep. in Brian de Breffny, ed., Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia, 1982, p.129. See also ‘Sir Hugh Lane’ by John Singer Sargeant (1906; Municipal Gallery), and an oil port., seated, by Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879-1972), in Crawford Gallery, Cork; also LSO pencil portrait by John Butler Yeats and an oil-on-panel portrait by Saray Celia Harrison (d.1941) [both NGI]. Hugh Lane is included in ‘Homage to Manet’ by Sir William Orpen (1909), with P. W. Steer, Henry Tonks, George Moore, W. R. Sicket, et al. [copied in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.109 facing.]

Gift-wrapped: A gift-copy of the life of Sir Hugh Lane held at the Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco), contains a printed letter signed by Eamon de Valera, reading as follows: ‘This book, which deals with the career of an Irishman who strove nobly to serve the cause of culture in his country, has been prepared as a gift from the Government of Saorstat Eireann to those who love justice and to those who love the arts. / As President of the Executive Council, I have the honour of offering you this copy.’


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Lusitania Medallion: the Lusitania medal - or medallion - struck by Karl Goetz (1875-1950), a copy of which was reproduced by the British Secret Service under the command of Sir Reginald Hall - incidentally, the supposed forger of the Casement Black Diaries - shows passengers lining up in front of a Cunard Line ticket guichet which is manned by a skeleton on the obverse while the front side shows the ship going down stern first, with obvious war-materials on board. The object was to satirise the Cunard company for selling tickets to civilian passengers.

For an account of the sinking of the Lusitania, see Des Hickey & Gus Smith, Seven Days to Disaster (London: Collins 1981; rep. Fontana 1982), 336pp., ill.

Lusitania Medal - a website about the medal - also called medallion - created by Greg Burns, who writes: ‘The design of the medal was originally created by the German medalist, Karl Goetz [...] and was later copied by the British for propaganda purposes during World War I and by others for their own reasons.’ Burns gives images of the Goetz medals - i.e., the first version which bears the date 5 May 1915, and a second version with the correct date of 7 May 1915, reflecting an error attributed by the artist to a false newspaper report. The deck of the ship, sinking stern first, is shown to hold contraband war goods The edge of authentic versions of the Goetz medal are stamped with that Munich-based medallist’s name. (Go to online.)

See Lusitania.net: Karl Goetz was a medal maker from Munich, he produced a satirical medal in response to the German Navy’s sinking of the Lusitania. His satire was aimed directly at Cunard and the German [sic] government. Only a handful were ever made by Goetz, but the British Govt. seized on it and Selfridge’s Dept. Store (London) mass produced a copy with a very anti-German flyer. The original was bronze but the copy was made of a grey metal and has the correct date of 7th May in English spelling. Goetz later produced a bronze-like version bearing the correct date in German (7th Mai) but the medal had lost any popularity it once had. Neither Walther Schweiger nor is crew received any medal specifically for the sinking of the Lusitania. Subsequent investigations have established that the ship was indeed carrying substantial amounts of war munitions excluded from the ship’s manifest - as revealed by the American press shortly after the sinking. The British flyer reads:

‘This medal has been struck in Germany with the object of keeping alive in German Hearts the recollection of the glorious achievement of the German Navy in deliberately destroying an unarmed passenger ship, together with 1,198 non combatant men, women and children. On the obverse, under the legend “No contraband” (Keine Bannware), there is a representation of the Lusitania sinking. The designer has put in guns and aeroplanes, which (as certified by United States Government officials after inspection) the Lusitania did not carry, but has conveniently omitted to put in the women and children, which the world knows she did carry. On the reverse, under the legend “Business above all” (Geschaft uber alles), the figure of Death sits at the booking office of the Cunard Line and gives out tickets to passengers, who refuse to attend to the warning against submarines given by a German.This picture seeks apparently to propound the theory that if a murderer warns his victim of his intention,the guilt of the crime will rest with the victim,not with the murderer.’

The captain of the Lusitania was William Turner (b.1856), known as Bowler Bill since he wore the traditional new bowler hat of the captain of a four-master - having taken his first such commission on board the Star of the East out of New York in 1889. He was several times awarded medals for bravery having rescued drowning men including a boy at Alexandra Dock (London). His first command was involved in a fatal collision with a small barque, with loss of four lives, on which occasion he also personally saved survivors. His first time at sea was on board a small ship called Grasmere which was wrecked in a gale off Northern Ireland. In 1904 he captained the Carpathia and assumed command of the Lusitania on the retirement of James Watt in 1908. Known for his gruffness, and separated from his wife and children in 1903, he was paradoxically sought after by snobbish Cunard passengers. Later, he captained the Mauritania and performed a striking rescue feat in adverse conditions in 1910. In 1913 he was promoted to Commodore by Cunard. When Captain Dow went on leave suffering from nervous exhaustion caused by fear of submarine attacks in April 1915, Turner assumed command and survived the sinking. An attempt was made by the Admiralty to charge him with negligence but was seen off by Lord Mersey. He subsequently captained the Ivernia carrying Canadian troops, which was also torpedoed (by Kapitan-Leutnant Steinbauer of UB47). In 1918 be was awarded the OBE but the Admiralty charges against him were raised again in The World Crisis (1921), causing him to adopt the life of a recluse in Liverpool, where he was born. His wife emigrated to Australia with their boys at the time of the Lusitania disaster and when he travelled there to find them in 1915 they had apparently moved on to Canada. He died of bowel cancer. (For more details, see Lusitania.net > Turner - online; accessed 21.08.2012.)

Ship’s Manifest: The ship’s manifest was delivered to the White House by Cunard Lines at the request of President Roosevelt in Jan. 1940 and is now available at Lusitania.net - as pdf. This reveals that the ship was carrying a cargo including numerous merchantile commodities (e.g., boxes of lard, bacon & pork, boxes of cheese and kegs of nuts together with shoes and laces, cotton goods and samples, tobacco leaf, books (1 case from Macmillan), 230 bales of raw furs (shipped by Alfred Fraser), as well as domestic goods, machines and assorted hardware, mail bags and air rifles) - but also scrap rubber, 250 cases of shrapnel, 18 cases of fuses and 4,200 cases of ‘cartridges’ weighing approx. 190,000 lbs. in total [i.e., 20 tons].

The account of the sinking of the ship by German submarine U20 at Lusitania Online [i.e., online] states that the U-boat Kapitan-Leutnant Walther Schwieger (holder of the Blue Max) recorded a secondary explosion which he attributed to the boilers but which has been shown by computer reconstruction of the surviving “target solution” details to have coincided with the location of 5,000 live artillery shells held in unprotected wooden crates stowed in the forward hold. The ‘factious narrative’ of the U2 sailor Charles Voegele whose refusal to fire the fatal torpedo has entered the Lusitania legend (vide Des Hickey & Gus Smith, Seven Days to Disaster: The Sinking of the Lusitania, 1981), and who was supposedly court-martialled and imprisoned until the end of the war, is also unravelled on that website - whose compiler appears to be RFHeier@att.net.

Note: a specimen of the medal and its cardboard case is in the possession of the compiler of Ricorso [BS]. The top cover of the case shows the Lusitania steaming ahead in an oblique bow view which shows a black hull, a white superstructure, and four red stacks from which profuse coal-smoke is emerging to trail behind the ship as it moves through a bow-wave at the bottom right-hand of the black-boardered illustration. Beneath the hull at the left-side appear the words: ‘R.M.S Lusitania / Cunard Linen - 32,000 tons. Sunk on her return journey from the United States by a German Submarine May 7th 1915’ [all in small caps]. On the verso side of the cover appears the message: ‘The “Lusitania” (German) Medal / An exact replica of the medal which was designed in Germany and distributed to commemorate the sinking of the “Lusitania” / This indicates the true feeling the War Lords eandeavour to stimulate, and is proof positive, that such crimes are not merely regarded favourably, but are given every encouragement in the land of Kultur. / The “Lusitania” was sunk by the a German submarine on May th, 1915. She had on board at the time 1,951 passengers and crew, of whom 1,198 perished.’ The medal lies in a snug inset lined in blonde velvet. The underside of the box is simply a square of plain paper and the upper parts are coloured solely in red, white and black - beng the colours of the German flag. (BS; edited 31.12.2014.) The medal is valued at £25 pounds on the Lioncoins website > German [online; 21.08.2012].

More medals: A group of medals awarded to Commander William Turner, captain of the Lusitania, estimated at £25,000- £35,000 (about €34,000), failed to sell at Lockdales Auctioneers, Martlesham, Suffolk, on Saturday, 22 Sept. 2015. (See The Irish Times, “Auction Results”, 19 Sept. 2015,)

Hugh Lane 100 Years (Exhibition): ‘Dublin City Gallery/The Hugh Lane first opened its doors in Clonmell House, Harcourt Street, on 20 January 1908. It was known as The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art and presented an acclaimed collection brought together by Hugh Lane and his supporters. ‘Hugh Lane 100 Years’ features a significant selection drawn from the 300 paintings, sculpture and works on paper shown when the gallery first opened along with additional works that illuminate the story of the founding of the Gallery. ‘Hugh Lane 100 Years’ is a highlight of the Hugh Lane centenary celebrations, exhibiting the entire collection of 39 paintings known as the Hugh Lane Bequest of 1917. On loan from the National Gallery, London, this will be the first time the collection has been exhibited in Dublin since they were removed from Clonmell House in 1913. The 39 paintings include works by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In addition to the works from the Hugh Lane 1917 Bequest, the exhibition presents work by key Irish and international artists including William Orpen, Nathaniel Hone, George Russell, Antonio Mancini, John Singer Sargent, J.B.C. Corot and Auguste Rodin.’ Publisher’s notice for Barbara Dawson, The Continental Pictures: Hugh Lane 100 years (Dublin: Hugh Lane Gall. [2008]) [An exhibition webpage at https://www.hughlane.ie/past/148-hugh-lane-100-years is defunct in Feb. 2024.].

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