William Ashford’s Mount Merrion - The Absent Point of View


Finola O’Kane

Regular price €30.00

2012, Churchill House Press,                                                                                             Hardback, 96 pages

This wonderful publication explores a remarkable album of drawings depicting the suburban demesne of Mount Merrion situated a few miles from Dublin. Part of his bequest to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the drawings were commissioned in 1804 by the museum’s founder Viscount Fitzwilliam from his friend the landscape painter William Ashford (1746-1824), later to be the inaugural President of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

This study by Finola O’Kane publishes the drawings and a series of related paintings for the first time in their entirety. It moves from an exploration of Mount Merrion’s history, architecture and landscape design to wider questions of the Fitzwilliam family’s medieval ancestry; the substantial reach of their Dublin estate; and their enthusiastic role in Dublin’s eighteenth-century property boom which in effect re-orientated the whole city to the east.

 

The book examines the nature and context of eighteenth-century Irish landscape painting and its potentially subversive points of view, showing how Viscount Fitzwilliam was a complex figure defying any orthodox understanding of the Anglo-Irish landlord class. He was at once an absentee landlord, resident mostly in England, and yet also actively  supportive of Catholic interests in nineteenth-century Ireland, publishing, initially in French, a defence of the Catholic faith. Inevitably his patron’s attitudes – and absences – colour Ashford’s views of the estate and he depicts Mount Merrion as an estate caught between city and country, Dublin and London, the English gentry and the Irish peerage: and in so doing, creates a poignant elegy for a, soon-to be-lost, demesne.

 

All proceeds from the sale of this publication accrue to the Irish Georgian Society.