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Front. Dublin International Exhibition building. Architect: Alfred G. Jones. Ironwork: "Mr. Orlish, the well-known engineer." Foundry: Messrs. Kankin, of Liverpool. All Art-Journal plates drawn by W. J. Allen and engraved by J. and G. P. Nicholls. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
The basic conception of the exhibition structures resembles that of the major Victorian railway stations, such as St. Pancras and its accompanying Midland Grand Hotel: an architect-designed building that fronts an engineer-designed iron-and-glass structure.
The month that has elapsed since we noticed this great undertaking, has been well employed by the various committees and officers of the exhibition; and a commensurate progress has been made in every department. Externally, little, comparatively speaking, remains to be done: the whole mass of buildings may now be said to be completed, save a few light and temporary structures which are in course of erection at the north-eastern angle, for the purpose of adding two more courts—one for carriages, and the other for machinery at rest. These are kept sufficiently low to prevent their marring the beauty of the original pile, and are a very desirable adjunct to the accommodation which, with the growing requirements of contributors, is even still too limited. The grounds may be pronounced all but finished—the approaches on all sides are being laid down. A massive dwarf wall of hewn granite protects the front, or eastern entrance, and is surmounted by handsome iron pillars at intervals, from which depend chains—thus forming a fencing at once elegant and substantial. The gates, both at the northern and southern ends of the enclosure, are remarkably fine, and afford spacious room for entrance. "We have, in our last observations, given a sufficiently accurate description of the external style and architectural features of the building. To this we have now nothing to add, but that, as it receives the last finishing in the minuter details, its general effect is enhanced. Our attention must henceforth be mainly directed to the interior. Much has been done here—though much remains to be done. The arrangements and application of the various courts and apartments have been finally made, and appear to us to have been dono with judgment. We shall go rapidly through them. On the groundfloor, the great hall, as we formerly stated, is intended for the reception of sculpture. It is open to the roof, through which it is lighted by a lantern the whole length; while all around it, supported by pillars, runs a gallery in the upper story; the hall is floored with encaustic tiling, in various patterns and,colours. Passing out of the hall into the great structure of iron and glass, which traverses the whole length of the building, from north to south, we enter a square of over forty feet, which is assigned to Rome; to the right or north of which is a quadrangle, about twice as large, dedicated to the productions of the rest of Italy. Still farther north, a small space will be occupied by Sweden and Norway; while on the extreme south, Belgium gets a very extensive location. These allocations bisect the building longitudinally from south to north; tho other half, that bounding the gardens, will be occupied by Prussia to the extreme south; Austria coming next; France taking up the centre, including the apsis, and stretching northward till it reaches the location for Denmark. The portion of the building which runs from west to east—being a space of about 270 feet long, and 117 feet wide, will be appropriated entirely to the United Kingdom. Northward of this, a fine spacious court has been erected for machinery in motion; from which we pass eastward into a smaller court, for machinery at rest; adjacent to which, going southward, is a court of similar size, for the exhibition of carriages. Beyond the music hall, on the south of the entrance hall, are four rooms for the display of photographs; the disposable space south of which will be arranged for first-class refreshment rooms.
A spacious double staircase on the right of the hall leads to the upper floor and galleries. Bound the hall runs a gallery which, with a room over the entrance, will be reserved for pictures of the modern foreign schools. The large room to the right is intended for the old masters, whose works are to be arranged chronologically, as in the Manchester Exhibition—a plan which is highly instructive and interesting. We have already mentioned that a gallery is assigned for the exhibition of water colours, and another will contain the paintings of the modern English school. Considering the large requirements for the other objects of the Exhibition, we are bound to say that the interests of the Fine Arts have not been neglected in point of space; we could wish that the smaller picture galleries were wider and better lighted. A small mediaeval court adjoins the great picture gallery. Tho galleries running round the whole of the iron building will be occupied by the industrial productions of the various nations in the following sequence, beginning at the south-west angle:—Prussia, Austria, Prance (in the apsis), Turkey, China, and Japan, the British Colonies, India, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium. Such are the final arrangements of the space, which we understand is very much less than is needed for the number and requirements of the applicants.
Now that the interior of the great western building is finished, one can adequately judge of its effect as a whole. Standing at the north-western angle, a full view is obtained southward and eastward, so as to take in the entire structure at a glance. The opinion which we formed at first has boen fully confirmed by our latest survey, and we venture to assert that it is the most successful combination of iron and glass that has as yet been erected. In the arching of the roof, strength, grace, and lightness have been admirably combined; and the lattice-work of the girders gradually tapering to the centre, contributes not a little to the elegance of its appearance. The columns throughout the building are light and airy shafts, that suit well with the character of the galleries they have to support; and, though simple, they are tastefully moulded in their ornamentation. We understand that the credit of much of the design of the ironwork is due to Mr. Orlish, the well-known engineer, by whom the details were worked out. The castings were made in the foundry of Messrs. Kankin, of Liverpool, and are an admirable illustration of the perfection to which this branch of manufacture has been brought. The subject of the colouring of this structure was a question of great anxiety and much consideration. Artists, and artists only, will fully understand the importance of this matter. In all buildings, as we are of late years beginning to understand, colour is primarily to be considered. It gives a character to the place, and to the objects which are to occupy it; and an error in judgment, especially where the objects to be affected are artistic or delicate, is sure to operate prejudicially. The difficulty in the present case was increased by the vast mass of light which is received in every direction into the building; this would necessarily detect and exaggerate anything that might be inharmonious in tone. In our frequent visits to the building, while this matter was under discussion, we have seen the experiments in colouring which were submitted to the test; and we have been sometimes more amused than edified by the suggestions we have heard from amateurs. One sturdily advocated Vermillion; another clamoured for cobalt; while a third assured us that a good ocherous buff would have a charming offect. Fortunately, the subject was in the hands of ono who understood it—Mr. Henry Doyle, whose skilful decoration of the Roman Catholic chapel at Cabra, near Dublin, we have alroady favourably noticed in the Art-Journal. Accordingly, he took his own course in the matter; and bearing in mind, not only the present use to which the structure is to be applied, but its permanent occupation as a winter garden, he has used quiet, neutral colours—light and delicate shades of lavender and green being largely provalent, with here and there a small portion of a stronger and more prononcée character, for effect. This, we do not hesitate to affirm, is artistically correct, harmonising with tho building itself, and suited to refiove, but not offend, the strong and varied colours that will be thrown off from the various articles with which the room will be filled. These will supply the deeper and more brilliant colouring necessary for contrasts; and the banners which will bo used as docorations will show finely against the more delicate colouring of the interspaces.
Tho strength of the galleries has been lately tested in a very satisfactory manner. A body of five hundred of the 78th Highlanders marched through through en masse, fully accoutred, with their band playing— a very pretty exhibition in itself. Tho Fine Arts department will be placed under the superintendence of Mr. Doyle, and we have reasons to expect that it will be very complete, and highly interesting as an exposition of Art ancient and modern. While foreign artists and foreign governments are not deficient in their contributions, as we took occasion to state last month, we rejoice to find that the collections in our own country will be liberally placed at the disposal of the Exhibition. In addition to the contributions which her Majesty has already graciously accorded, we learn that she has signified her intention of sending Leslie's great picture of 'Tho Coronation,' and that of the 'Marriage of the Princess Royal,' painted by Phillip. She also permits a selection from the Indian collection at Windsor Castle to be forwarded. This collection will add considerably to the interest of the Indian Department, which, it is expected, will be rich and beautiful, under the management of a special committee, the presidentship of which Lord Gough has just accepted. Our nobility, too, are following this good example. The Dukes of Devonshire and of Manchester are contributing from their collections works of both ancient and modern masters. Earls Warwick, Darnley, St. Germans, Spencer, Portarlington, and Mayo will send their best pictures by the ancient masters; so, too, will Viscount Powerscourt and Lord Lyttelton, and Willet Adye, and Thomas Kibble, Esqrs. Some good pictures of the British school, including those of Romney, Gainsborough, and others, come from Lord De Tabley, and a chef-d'ceuvre in sculpture of Hogan's, 'Eve's first Sight of Death,' purchased by his lordship in Rome when that great Irish sculptor was a student there. We learn with pleasure that, in addition to the statuary that has been promised from Rome, and of which we spoke on a former occasion, every British sculptor will be represented. It is gratifying to hear that the Roman government is giving every facility to artists in the transport of their works to Ireland, and is exerting itself energetically in the cause of the Exhibition. This is wise as well as generous. It not only promotes the Fine Arts, but directly benefits the artists, as it is a fact that by far the greatest portion of the sculpture sent to the International Exhibition at Hyde Park was purchased there. It is not unreasonable to expect that the artists may be equally successful in disposing of their works in Dublin.
It will be seen from what we have said on the subject of the arrangements of space, that some rooms have been appropriated to the display of photography, as among the Fine Arts; and we understand that the exhibition of these will comprise the largest and most varied collection of photographs ever brought together. To assign a place to photography amongst the Fine Arts may perhaps admit of a question; but we think the committee have done wisely in not deciding that question in the negative by excluding it. There is no doubt that in 1862 much discontent was caused among photographers by the refusal to rank them with artists. By giving the benefit of the doubt on this question, the Dublin committee will have their reward, as the photographers are coming forward in unprecedented numbers with their productions.
The Dublin committee have adopted a now arrangement for the selection of juries. The various British and foreign committees will be required to forward the names of persons whom they consider to be fit for the office, and from these lists the executive committee will select the juries. It is to be regretted that the space at the disposal of the committee is so much less than has been demanded. A good deal of jealousy and discontent must arise amongst disappointed applicants, no matter how fairly or judiciously those who have the disposal of the space may act in the discharge of this difficult duty. To obviate, in some degree, this inconvenience to exhibitors, the Royal Dublin Society, with the liberality which has ever characterised that body whenever the public good was to be promoted, has placed its valuable and extensive premises at the disposal of the exhibition committee for the display of agricultural machinery and implements. This will afford an opportunity of making this department of the Exhibition—so important to Ireland—far more considerable than could otherwise have been done. We trust manufacturers will avail themsolves of the increased accommodation. A very important bill has just received the Royal assent, whereby the rights of all persons exhibiting new inventions or new designs are fully protected, notwithstanding the exposition of them at the Exhibition. We trust that this measure will remove any difficulty that might have stood in the way of inventors, and that they will be encouraged to contribute largely on this occasion. Meantime the executive committee are making their arrangements for the opening on the 9th of May. They have confided to Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King-at-Arms, the details of the marshalling, and the preparation of the programme of tho ceremonies connected with the inauguration. Though these are not yet completed, we are enabled to give the following outline. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is expected to arrive at Kingstown on the evening of the 8th of May. The following day he is to leave the Lodge at noon in state, reaching the building about one o'clock. At the grand entrance he will be received by the Lord Mayor and the members of the executive committee. Thence they will proceed to tho great concert hall, where the National Anthem will be sung, and the ceremony of inauguration will take place. The Prince will then inspect the several departments of the building, and returning to the dais in the concert hall, declare, in the name of her Majesty, the Exhibition opened. A musical performance will conclude the ceremony, which promises to be a very brilliant one. No doubt tho several committees are working ardently and well; as we have elsewhere observed, the railway companies are co-operating liberally with them, so as to induce a large in-flow of visitors to Ireland this year. The result will be great good to Ireland, and not to that country only, but to England also. Especially we shall have to congratulate the architect, Alfred G. Jones, Esq., on the completion of a work that will be regarded as a professional triumph.
“The Dublin International Exhibition.” Art-Journal (1865): 153-55. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. August 16, 2013.
Last modified 16 August 2013