Since about 1959, Music in the Tuileries Gardens, an 1862 painting by Édouard Manet, has traveled back and forth between the National Gallery in London and Dublin’s Hugh Lane gallery as part of a sharing arrangement. Those arrangements were slightly altered in 1993 but the painting has continued making its journey back and forth between England and Ireland. The painting is set to head back to Dublin in October, but this time, the move is symbolic.
‘We hope to have news for you soon,’ Barbara Dawson, director of Hugh Lane, told artnet News. ‘In the meantime, the October rotation will go ahead as planned.’ The National Gallery corroborated this confirming that the next rotation of the work will take place next month. The reason that this is such a big move is that it signifies that the agreement, which was set to formally expire this year, has been picked up and will continue for the foreseeable future. While this is a monumental moment in and of itself, the forthcoming journey is also symbolic for its timing. On October 30th, the Hugh Lane gallery will host a talk centring on the painting meaning the work will be in Ireland before the looming Brexit deadline on October 31st. Some have thus speculated that uncertain Brexit plans encouraged the trade, full stop, as well as its travel ahead of the end of October to avoid any travel disruptions that could occur after Brexit.
Music in the Tuileries Gardens is one of 39 paintings that have caused much turmoil between Ireland and London. The paintings once belonged to Sir Hugh Lane, a prominent art dealer and collector. In 1915, Lane died while traveling aboard the Lusitania, which was infamously sunk by a German U-boat. The 40 paintings, which included works by Renoir, Manet, and Pissarro, were left to Dublin, on the condition that they have a gallery built for them, but they were part of a signed but unwitnessed codicil to Lane’s will. In the end, the paintings stayed in London despite the fact that Lane was the director of Ireland’s National Gallery at the time of his death and political pressure from Ireland to return the works.
Many years later, and long overdue, a compromise between Dublin and the National Gallery was reached. With it, 31 of the paintings that were entrusted to Dublin in Lane’s will were loaned to the Hugh Lane gallery and have remained there on a long-term basis. While the others have remained at the National Gallery, Music in the Tuileries Gardens has traveled between the two galleries every six years. When the painting heads back to Dublin next month, artnet News has reported that other major works by Degas, Monet, and Vuillard, will accompany the work. In return, four Impressionist masterpieces, including Renoir’s The Umbrellas and Manet’s Portrait of Eva Gonzales, are set to head to London.
The continuation of the compromise, which was once called ‘a very sensible’ one by Charles Saumarez Smith, former director of the London National Gallery, is a high point in uncertain times for the UK and the art world.