28 September 2021
Finding an unexpected
window by An Túr Gloine
in Limerick City Gallery
After a busy Sunday morning, two of us decided to have lunch in Limerick and to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon, seeing some of the buildings we had missed, and some stained-glass work that had missed our attention in the past.
Two house guests recently gave us a present of the new edition of the Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass, edited by Nicola Gordon Brown, David Caron and Michael Wynne (Newbridge: Irish Academic Press, 2021). Since then, we have been using this book as an invitation to see some of the great works of Stained Glass in Ireland.
One of the buildings we visited on Sunday afternoon is the Limerick City Gallery of Art on Pery Square, first built as the Carnegie Free Library and Museum, beside the People’s Park and close to Saint Michael’s Church.
The fanlight above the main door is work of An Túr Gloine Studio ca 1906, and depicts the civic coat-of-arms of the City of Limerick.
The fanlight is barely visible outside the building, and the design and colour are only truly appreciated from inside the porch.
Limerick City Library was established in Glentworth Street in 1893. The site for a new library was donated by the Earl of Limerick, ground landlord of the city, who owned the People’s Park at this time.
The new library was funded by the Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), who laid the foundation stone in 1903. The building was designed in the Neo-Hiberno-Romanesque style by the Dublin architect George Patrick Sheridan (1865-1950), and was completed by 1908.
Sheridan went on to design a number of other Carnegie libraries, including Lismore (1907-1910), Tallow (1909-1910), Ballyduff (1911) and Cappoquin (1909-1911), all in Co Waterford. He also supervised the building of the Parnell Monument in Dublin, unveiled by John Redmond in 1911.
Sheridan’s library in Limerick was built of local limestone with Killaloe slates used for the roof, and included a two-story residence for the City Librarian, which was used until 1973.
It was built in the Hiberno-Romanesque style, which is usually more associated with church buildings. It is thought that the main entrance was inspired by the great doorway of Glenstal Castle, now Glenstal Abbey.
The library was opened in 1906 and ten years later, Limerick’s first municipal museum was also opened in the same building when a group of prominent Limerick politicians, artists and patrons established the first Limerick City Collection of Art from various donations and bequests in in 1936.
The Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) was established by three key figures in Limerick cultural history. Dermod O’Brien (1865-1945) from Foynes was a grandson of the Young Ireland leader William Smith O’Brien and the prominent Liberal statesman Thomas Spring Rice, first Lord Monteagle. O’Brien was one of the leading artists in Ireland and the longest ever-serving President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (1910-1945). Sean Keating (1889-1977) was also President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (1948-1962) and one of the greatest Irish artists of the 20th century. Joseph Mary Flood (1882-1970) was a barrister and writer who served as District Justice in Limerick City and North Tipperary in 1923-1947.
An extension to the rear of the library and museum became the home to the City Collection in 1948 as the Limerick Free Art Gallery.
The Library and Museum were transferred to larger buildings in 1985, and since then Limerick City Gallery of Art has occupied the entire Carnegie Building. There were two major renovations and expansions in 1999 and in 2010/2011, and the LCGA reopened in Pery Square in 2012.