KCVS 4th and 5th years had a hugely beneficial and highly informative trip to Dublin on Wednesday January 24th. There were two ports of call on the agenda, and two more interesting sites would be hard to find, namely The National Gallery of Ireland and The Royal Irish Academy. First up was a guided tour of the National Gallery and this piqued the interest of all students and teachers present. The first of the items on show was the Jack Yeats room where the group perused his paintings and took part in a Q&A session with the guide afterwards. This was an excellent way to begin proceedings and the manner in which the students reacted was extremely positive with a plethora of questions coming from the floor afterwards. Next up then was a visit to the Atrium and a piece by Cork artist Joseph Walsh which was a 7m high by 2.5 m wide ash sculpture, which used Kilkenny Limestone for the base. After that we were treated to a viewing of the recently renovated The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise in the Shaw Room. This painting really resonated with the students, due to a number of reasons, not least the sheer vastness of the project, but more importantly the historical content of the painting. They were also fascinated by the renovation process itself and the practicalities of that project. The final segment of the tour took us to the Portrait Gallery and the Hennessy Portrait Prize and this was the highlight of the tour for most. The attention to detail was a thing to behold, particularly in the oil paintings and on another point of local interest, the winner of last years’ prize, Gerry Davis was commissioned to paint our own Henry Shefflin, whose portrait hangs proudly in the entrance to the Portrait Gallery. The interactive nature of this tour really struck a chord with the students and this was evident in the amount of questions and inquiries to each and every aspect of the tour. All involved expressed a desire to return to further peruse the treasure trove available.
Following a lunch/shopping break the next item on the agenda was The Royal Irish Academy. While this was a tour of a different kind, it was, nonetheless an equally interesting one. Some of the items available at first hand are simply staggering. One of the highlights on display here was the collection of Irish manuscripts and this triggered huge interest from the students, with each clamouring to research their local area in the Kilkenny Tome. We learnt an enormous amount here about the history of the Academy, not least the list of dignitaries that have been happy to be known as members.the Academy is an all-Ireland body, and organises conferences, arranges discourses and public lectures, and also conducts research, some of which was recently aiding the Irish Government is assessing and predicting how Brexit might manifest itself in terms of the effect on Ireland. With the assistance of a staffing complement of 80 in addition to the approximately 400 members there are also more than 60 distinguished honorary members, who in the past have included Edmund Burke, Charles Darwin, Enrico Fermi, Max Planck, Maria Edgeworth, Theodor Mommsen, Albert Einstein and Max Born. The material that has been housed here down through the ages includes some of the country’s best-known treasures, such as the Cross of Cong, the Tara Brooch, and the Ardagh Chalice; some of these had been donated or bequeathed to the academy, others bought through subscriptions from the individual members. All in all, this outing proved to be one of the more popular of the many undertaken by KCVS students this academic year, to a student they wished they could have stayed in both venues for longer than the assigned time. This in itself is a ringing endorsement of the facilities of both The National Gallery of Ireland and The Royal Irish Academy and all students are looking forward to visiting both venues again in the not too distant futur