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History of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts

Volumes One and Two

By: John Turpin

Publication Date: November 2018


History of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts by John Turpin

The annual exhibitions of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts, founded in 1823 and still active today, provided a bridge between the Irish artist and the public, including critics and collectors. The Academy also ran the main art school for aspiring artists in the nineteenth century. During the Easter Rising of 1916 its galleries and school in Lower Abbey Street were destroyed by fire. It survived in borrowed space, but faced major challenges from modernism in the visual arts.

By the end of the twentieth century it had redeemed its role in its new gallery in Ely Place, opened, still incomplete, in 1985. The narrative of this stunning compendium is one of change, conflict and adaption. The book is divided into two volumes that describe two different political, social and artistic worlds: Volume One (1823-1916), and Volume Two (1916-2010).

Despite the age of the RHA, this is the first book to be published on its history.

‘The most outstanding contribution to the visual arts to be published in Ireland this year.’ — Paul Caffrey, The Irish Arts Review

‘The book will provide an invaluable source for anyone interested in Irish art and for art historians, curators, auction houses, collectors – and for any student of 19th-century Irish history and society.’ — Julian Campbell, The Irish Arts Review

‘Magnificent.’ The Times

‘Turpin makes it clear that academies were always works in progress, that rules were always contested, and any notion of set, enduring values was largely wishful thinking.’ Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times


John Turpin was born in Dublin in 1945, educated at Blackrock College and studied art history at University College Dublin and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He was appointed professor of art history at the National College of Art and Design in 1975 and took over as its director from 1989 to 1994. He retired in 2005. He has written extensively on Irish art and has published books on the sculptors John Hogan and Oliver Sheppard, as well as a history of the NCAD.

Weight 1 kg

Two-volume HB, slipcase, 250 x 176 mm


Vol.1 – 496pp | Vol.2 – 728pp + 64pp illustrations

Publication Date

November 2018