Yeats Revisited at Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane

The Hugh Lane gallery, originally The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, was founded by art collector, Sir Hugh Lane in 1908. The gallery notably houses the archives and studio of Francis Beacon, alongside a recent gift of paintings from Sean Scully. As of April 2015, it now also holds an exhibition inspired by the paintings referenced within the poem, The Municipal Gallery Revisited by W.B. Yeats.The Municipal Gallery Revisited is a sentimental account of Yeats’ memories with his close friends. The elegiac poem narrates Yeats’ thoughts as he views the portraits of his peers who have passed away, while visiting the Municipal Gallery in Charlemont House. The Municipal Gallery Revisited is brimming with a sense of fondness and knowing, and The Hugh Lane gallery aptly exhibits these portraits in a warming way.
“Rather than using poetry as a tool to delve into political problems, Yeats chooses to utilise his poetry as a way of celebrating and remembering his friends. There is no deeper meaning than that.”
The exhibition consists of little more than the portraits, a marble bust, and a slightly bored looking security man in the corner. The room itself is well spaced out, and the lighting is comforting with its yellowing glow. There is an unmistakable homely sense within the exhibition. The gallery includes a printed version of the poem on the wall. This allows the visitor to relate the paintings they see with Yeats’ memories. Beside each portrait is a quote from the poem that coincides with each particular painting.This is a work quite different to any other of Yeats’ poems. Usually steeped in historical and political issues, Yeats’ poetry deals with nationalism and the relation between art and politics. Rather than using poetry as a tool to delve into political problems, Yeats chooses to utilise his poetry as a way of celebrating and remembering his friends. There is no deeper meaning than that. There is nothing radical or political about this exhibition, despite the presence of paintings depicting historically important moments. Under one particular portrait of W.B. Yeats himself, painted by Sarah Purser, are lines from the last part of the poem:“You that would judge me, do not judge alone?This book or that, come to this hallowed place?Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon;?Ireland's history in their lineaments trace;?Think where man's glory most begins and ends,?And say my glory was I had such friends.”These lines are truly poignant and relevant to the exhibition as they convey the sincerity of the respect that Yeats held for his friends.Although a small exhibition, it certainly has a big sentiment and it is without a doubt worth visiting. It allows visitors to peer inside the personalities of the people in the portraits, brought to life by someone who knew them well. If this exhibition alone cannot draw you in, there are plenty other exhibitions within The Hugh Lane that will. With its impressive collection of art and no entrance fee, it’s certainly a pleasant way to while away an afternoon.