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Renaissance to Romanticism

Painting before 1900

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Permanent Exhibition

Renaissance to Romanticism draws together many of the finest pre-1900 Irish, British and European paintings in the Ulster Museum collection. Spanning the 1500s to the late 1800s the works have, for the first time, been arranged regardless of geographical borders. This presentation includes familiar and well-loved paintings, and works which have rarely been on display.

Since 2016, the art collection has been enriched by a series of major acquisitions. To celebrate these, and to show them in context, the art galleries have been re-orientated to give a continuous narrative from the 15th to the 21st century.

New to the gallery

Renoir’s L’allée au bois is the first French Impressionist painting to enter a public collection in Northern Ireland and represents an outstandingly important acquisition for the Ulster Museum. It fills an important gap in the collection, and will enable a deeper understanding of the work of the ‘Irish Impressionists’ such as Roderic O’Conor, John Lavery and Paul Henry, who travelled to France to study the achievements of Impressionism in the years after 1870. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the leading figures of Impressionism in Paris during the 1870s and 1880s. Throughout these years Impressionist painters created an entirely new style of painting, using only loose, fragmented brush strokes to evoke the changing colours and myriad qualities of light.

Born in Limoges, Renoir moved to Paris as a child. There he met Claude Monet with whom he developed the ideas and techniques of Impressionism and made painting trips to the forest of Fontainebleau and at La Grenouillère, a boating resort on the River Seine not far from Paris. L’allée au bois’ was painted between 1874 and 1880 in a wood near Paris, although the precise location is unknown. The small light-filled woodland scene is a purely Impressionist work giving the viewer the sense of entering a forest glade where a light breeze gently rustles leaves and grasses in the heat and dappled shade of a late afternoon summer’s day.

Renoir’s L’allée au bois’

Photograph © Christie’s. Accepted in lieu of Inheritance tax by HM Government in 2023 and allocated to the Ulster Museum with the assistance of grants from the Department for Communities, the Art Fund, the Esmé Mitchell Trust and the Friends of the Ulster Museum.

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