Visual Arts in Co Down
Cultural History, Famous Painters/Sculptors and Art and Crafts Museums.

County Down, Ulster

Visual Arts in County Down

Situated on the east coast of Northern Ireland in the province of Ulster, County Down is famous for spectacular coastline and the Mountains of Mourne. County Down, population 516,000 - is strongly associated with Saint Patrick who founded his first church here (at Saul) and is buried at Downpatrick. An additional connection with the history of Irish art and culture is reflected in its nickname as 'Bronte Country', after Patrick Bronte, the father of Victorian writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, was born in County Down.

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


Famous Artists

County Down has been blessed with a wealth of native born Irish artists. Among the most notable are: Margaret Clarke, (Portraitist, Landscape and Figure Painter); John Breakey, (Painter and Etcher); Joseph W. Carey, (Illustrator and History Painter); John Connery, (Modern Artist, Muscian and Writer); Gary Devon, (Landscapes); Mark Francis, (Abstract Oils); Julian Friers, (Wildlife Painter and Artist); Rowel Friers, (Illustrator and Cartoonist); Lindy Guinness, (Lady Dufferin) (Landscapes); Sarah Cecilia Harrison, (Figurative Paintings); Sean Hillen, (Art Photographer); John Long, (Still Life, Figure and Landscape Paintings); Sine MacKinnon, (Landscapes); Padraig MacMiadhachain, (Abstract, Landscape and Seascape Artist); Ian McAllister, (Still Life and Surrealist Artist); Norman McCaig, (Landscapes and Seascapes); Jasper McKinney, (Contemporary Mixed-Media Artist and Sculptor); Frederick Edward McWilliam, (Irish sculpture in Bronze, Stone and Wood); Desmond Monroe, (Landscape Paintings); Rosamund Praeger, (Sculptor, Illustrator, Still Life Artist); FE McWilliam (Surrealist Sculptor); Mark Shields, (Portraitist); Elizabeth Taggart, (Contemporary Artist); Susan Webb, (Equestrian and Landscape Painter); Padraic Woods, (Landscape Canvases); John Butler Yeats, (Portrait Artist) (father of Jack B Yeats).


Art Centres and Venues

Down Civic Arts Centre, Downpatrick (028-4461-5283) offers a range of excellent arts facilities, including a wide-ranging performing arts program.
Ava Gallery, Bangor (028-9185-2263) focuses on Irish, UK and European art from post-impressionism to the post-war era. The gallery also represents several contemporary Northern Ireland artists, including some with successful international arts careers to unknown or emerging artists. It hosts regular solo and group art shows. Among artists represented are: Martin Mooney, Emma Connolly, Conor Fleck and Lindy Guinness.
The Lodge Studio and Fine Art, Dundrum (028-4375-1281), situated in beautiful Georgian premises, comprises a working artist studio for Royal Ulster Academicians Richard Croft and Helen Kerr (working in in batik and embroidery, oils, watercolours, pastels and prints), as well as gallery space. The fine art gallery also hosts periodic group shows of Irish and international artists.
Browne Knowe Art Gallery, Newcastle (028-4372-2009) presents a wide display of Irish painting at a variety of prices.
Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle (028-4372-3555) specialize in high quality traditional and modern art by Irish and international painters.
Algan Arts, Crossgar (028-4483-1199) is run by Celtic artist Gail Kelly, known for her hand painted etchings, woodcuts and lithography.
Frances Donnan Brena Ceramics, Killyleagh (028-4482-8355) offers individually hand-sculpted ceramic art with traditional and abstract animal designs, finished in either Raku or Stoneware or Raku.
Riley Photography, Dundrum (028-4375-1845) is run by lens-based artist Billy Riley, an associate member of the British Institute Of Professional Photographers known for his cutting edge Digital Photography.

Other galleries include: Charles Gilmore - Fine Art Dealers, Holywood (02890-428555); Davison Gallery, Holywood (02890-425982); Imagos Art Gallery, Newry (02830-834927); Irish Arts At Weekends, Downpatrick (02844-851494); Manor Fine Arts, Banbridge (02840-623434); Yard Gallery, Holywood (02890-427210).

Arts and Crafts

A notable body concerned with the promotion of native Irish art of the area, is County Down Crafts (028-4461-7214). Founded in 1997 by artists and designers with help from Down District Council, County Down Crafts aims to boost the development of the Crafts, Applied Arts and Design Sector in the south east of Northern Ireland.

Irish art and crafts centres include: Blue Beans Craft Shop & Gallery (028-4377-0414), offering many craftworks including an extensive range of celtic jewellery in silver and gold; Celtic Crafts Gallery (028-4375-1327) offers workshop-made jewellery made from precious and semi precious stones, as well as prints and original paintings of the Mourne region, plus fine crafts from all over Ireland.

Heritage, Cultural Centres and Arts Museums in Co Down

Bronte Homeland Interpretative Centre
Patrick Bronte, father of the famous Bronte sisters, was born near Rathfriland, County Down, in 1777. The family's story is told at Drumballyroney church and schoolhouse, 3 miles north-east of Rathfriland, where Patrick first preached and taught.

Burren Heritage Centre
Situated at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne, this cultural centre uses interpretative models, exhibitions and audio-visual aids to tell the story of the locality. In the main exhibition hall are models of prehistoric sites in the area and Neolithic tools and crafts. Many 18th- and 19th-century items of craftwork recall social history.

Down County Museum
The museum, opened in 1984, houses the St Patrick Heritage Centre, which tells the story of Ireland's patron saint through large-scale illustrations. St Patrick is reputedly buried in the graveyard of nearby Down Cathedral.

North Down Visitors and Heritage Centre
The outbuildings of Bangor Castle constitute an excellent setting for this cultural centre, which is divided into several sections. In the early Christian section, the most important examples of metalwork art are the 9th-century Bangor bell and a handbell from the old monastic foundation. The centre also chronicles the arrival of Scottish settlers in this area over 300 years ago and has an important collection of folio maps and manuscripts from that time.

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
This extensive museum recounts the story of the North of Ireland's social and economic development, notably its architecture and interior design, through the recreation of old buildings and workshops. There is also a strong collection of textile arts and crafts. In addition, transport is well represented.

• 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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