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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Going Native: A Labyrinth of world art

I took a wander around the National Gallery on Merrion Square the other day. Having dandered through the elaborate doorways and mint-green walls of the 18th- and 19th century Irish Art wing, I headed out to find another room but found myself right back with the minty walls and snazzy doorways instead.

I stared intently at my map and pretended I was meant to be there before oh-so-casually strolling off in the right direction.

On my way, I passed a group of school children on a tour. They were at the end of the Irish Portrait Gallery near paintings of Uncle Gaybo and Louis le Brocquy's creepy/compelling portrait of Bono. As I passed the tour guide was telling the kids, "Look into his eyes, no matter where you move, Bono will follow you . . .".

The current Taking Stock exhibition comprises the gallery's acquisitions over the past 10 years. There's some great stuff, including a print of Saint Patrick by a Flemish artist in 1603, which looks like a page from a comic, and the eerie night scene of The Flight into Egypt (1613), which inspired Rembrandt and features the first portrayal of the Milky Way in paint, a sparkling ribbon flowing above shadowy trees.

Continuing on my 'useless and lost' theme, I only came across the paintings section of Taking Stock as I was heading for the door (it's in the Beit Wing, as the brochure would have told me if I'd read it properly).

The gallery is quite large and the website (which is pretty dire) is getting a much-needed revamp soon. The new site will give users access to a range of information as well as a selection of paintings, archives and updates on events and the like. Be sure to check it out if you're planning a visit.

The jewel in our National Gallery's crown must be Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ which I managed to entirely miss on a previous visit. I found its spot this time but the painting is currently on loan to an exhibition in Rome. A staff member told me it should be back home in Dublin in August. An excuse for a return visit, I think. >Brenda McCormick

The National Gallery, Merrion Square West & Clare Street, Dublin 2, Call 01 661 5133. www.nationalgallery.ie. Admission is free

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