Derry Visual Arts
Cultural History, Broighter Gold Collar, Famous Painters/Sculptors, Saint Columba & the Vikings, and Art Museums.

County Derry, Ulster

Note: For a brief guide to Celtic culture
including the early metalworks of the
Celts, see: Celtic Art. For information
about the two earliest styles, which
influenced so many Irish craftsmen
during the golden age of the early Christian era in Ireland, see: Hallstatt
(800-450) and La Tene (450-50 BCE)

For a list of buildings/sites of
historical, architectural or
artistic significance, see:
Architectural Monuments Ireland and
Archeological Monuments Ireland.

Visual Arts in County Derry

Lying on the northern coast of Ulster, County Derry (Doire) - originally known as Londonderry - has a population of 213,000. Its capital, Derry City is centred on a hill on the west bank of the River Foyle, roughly 4 miles downstream from the Atlantic inlet Lough Foyle, and is partially enclosed by well-preserved city walls.

Early Visual Art

County Derry contains numerous prehistoric remains: including the Mesolithic site at Toome Bay on Lough Neagh, as well as neolithic burial chambers - contemporary with Newgrange in County Meath. However, no examples of specific works of art from these late Stone Age sites have survived. The earliest significant Irish art located in Derry is the Broighter gold collar - one of Ireland’s finest examples of Celtic metalwork from the late pagan Iron Age (400 BCE - 100 CE). It was discovered in Broighter, a village in County Derry. Produced by Irish metallurgists and goldsmiths during the first century before the birth of Christ, the Broighter collar was only one of the items discovered in the so-called Broighter Hoard. Other artifacts included a gold model boat, a small bowl, and various adornments.


Early Christian Art

Saint Columba established a monastery in Derry City during the sixth century, but it was destroyed by Vikings on numerous occasions before 1200. Despite the lack of remains, it is probable that the abbey - being a centre of scholarship and culture - was responsible for a range of Christian artworks like illuminated manuscripts as well as items of religious metalwork.

Famous Modern Artists

Renowned County Derry artists include: Nora McGuinness, (Landscape Artist, Graphic Designer and Illustrator); Margaret Arthur, (Printmaker); James MacIntyre, (Landscapes, Streetscapes and Portraits); Sheila McClean, (Impressionist Style Landscapes); Michael McGuinness, (Contemporary Artist); James Scott, (Landscapes and Still Lifes); Charlie Whisker, (Contemporary Artist); and Eamonn O'Doherty (one of Ireland's most outstanding sculptors).

Art Venues

Derry remains a significant cultural centre in Northern ireland, with numerous art spaces, galleries and studios. They include:

The Tower Museum

This acclaimed museum is situated at Union Hall Place. On permanent show are collections of artworks illustrating the "Story of Derry" (from monastic times, Plantation and the Siege of Derry, to the growth of the city 1700-1900, and the Irish Rebellion plus the Civil Rights and Troubles of the twentieth century) and "An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera" (whose exhibits include bronze cannons, textiles, ceramics, pewter dishes, goblets, gold coins). In addition, the Tower Museum hosts several temporary art exhibitions in various media.

Other Municipal Heritage Museuems

These include: the Harbour Museum - the acting headquarters of the Heritage and Museum Service of Derry City Council which illustrates Derry's maritime culture using architectural drawings, maps and plans of the city, as well as the 30 ft ‘Iona Curragh’, which in 1963 was used to replicate the journey to Iona undertaken by St. Colmcille in 563. The Workhouse Museum - housed in the old refurbished Victorian workhouse - which illustrates workhouse life, Victorian culture and the Famine, as well as Derry's contribution to the WWII Battle of the Atlantic.



Derry's fine arts galleries include:

Edward Gallery, Derry City (071-370003), founded in 2004, specializing in both Irish and international artworks. Artists represented include: J P Rooney, Gay O'Toole, Bernard McCormick, Ashley Coulter, Lena Crawford, Darren Paul, Jim McDonald, Hugh Boyce, Mark Luukas, Bernard McCormick, B M Devlin, Ashley Coulter, Derek Mcloone, Patrick Robinson, C Campbell, Phyllis Arnold, and Sammy Bovaird.

Laneside Gallery, Coleraine (028-70353600), founded in 1999, exhibits leading and emerging Irish artists, as well as prints, original drawings and Irish sculpture. Gallery artists include: Brian Ballard, David Crone, Rowland Davidson, Dan Dowling, Julian Friers, George K Gillespie, David Gordon Hughes, Carol Graham, Ken Hamilton, Gladys Maccabe, James MacIntyre, Cecil Maguire, Michael McGuinness, James McConnell, Simon McWilliams, Desmond Monroe, Dennis Osborne, Markey Robinson, Neil Shawcross, Paul Walls,
Maurice Canning Wilks, Ross Wilson, and many more.

Other galleries include: Annexe Gallery, Eglinton (02871-810389); Cambridge Gallery, Derry (02871-372237); Context Gallery, Derry (02871-373538); Eden Place Arts Centre, Derry (02871-269418); Gallery 33, Coleraine (02870-849933); Horner Gallery, Castledawson (02879-468178); Island Irish Art Gallery, Coleraine (02870-342599); McGilloway Gallery, Derry (02871-366011).

• For more about Irish culture, see: Ireland Visual Arts.
• For more about the historical heritage of the province of Ulster, see: Homepage.
• For a list of the top living painters in Ireland, see: Best Irish Artists/Painters.
• For details of art venues and museums in Northern Ireland, see: Irish Art Galleries.

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