The artistic contribution of Ireland it was relevant between the 8th and 9th centuries. especially with the important development of miniature and goldsmithing, which profoundly influenced English (➔ Anglo-Saxon) and European art (activity of the foundations of s. Colombano ; in particular, in Italy, by Bobbio); architecture and sculpture also developed, albeit to a lesser extent. In the 5th century, with the introduction of Christianity, the use of writing was established, which in Ireland acquired particular calligraphic forms (Celtic half-uncial). A new conception of writing in a decorative function was formed which led to a consequent profound innovation of the book. At the same time motifs of Mediterranean origin were adopted (the ‘page-carpet’). But while Anglo-Saxon art, drawing on Irish production, aimed at a monumental simplification, the Irish one turned towards creations of inexhaustible imagination. The main work of the miniature is the Book of Kells (early 9th century, Dublin, Trinity College), the greatest example of the type of Irish ornamentation, which extends to the same representation of the human figure; the contemporary book of Armagh (Trinity College) is also mentioned. For goldsmithing, notable pieces are the case of the so-called St. Patrick’s bell (11th century), the so-called Fibula di Tara (both in Dublin, National Museum), the Ardagh chalice (Royal Irish academy). For the sculpture, the large stone crosses, decorated towards the end of the period, with a great profusion of reliefs, are typical. The oldest religious architecture must have consisted mainly of wooden constructions. You can get an idea of the construction technique from the remains of houses on crannogs, the artificial islands created in lakes. Even stone architecture has singular forms (Gallarus church, Kerry, 7th century), in which one can often recognize the stone translation of ancient wooden structures (absence of the arch etc.); peculiar are the so-called round towers (round towers, scattered throughout the territory, used both as bell towers and for defense during the Scandinavian invasions).
According to Homosociety, Romanesque architecture is similar to contemporary Norman architecture in England and is also influenced by German art, known through Irish missions on the continent; the most important buildings include the chapel of King Cormac in Cashel, the convent church of Clonmacnoise and the cathedral of Clonfert. The cross of Cong, dated 1125, is linked to the goldsmiths of this period.
After the Anglo-Norman occupation, an original indigenous art ceased to exist. While Irish art spontaneously adopted the forms of the Romanesque, the Gothic remained in Ireland an imported phenomenon. Interesting are the remains of numerous castles, in which the same stylistic evolution of the English castles is reconstructed. During the 16th and 17th centuries. the architecture in Ireland records the coexistence of Gothicisms and classicist references; between the 17th and 18th centuries, in particular with personalities such as EL Pearce (Parliament, later Bank of Ireland, 1729).
In the 18th century. there was a large immigration of French, Italian and Northern European artists, and a strong development of artistic genres, such as landscape or portrait, linked to new client requests. An intense building activity is recorded in Dublin, in the Georgian period (main architects: W. Chambers, J. Gandon, T. Cooley, R. Parke). The flowering of the minor arts (silver, pewter) was also noteworthy. Irish artists mostly went to work in England, given the poor conditions of the country. In 1821 the Royal Hiberian Academy was founded in Dublin which for a long time remained the exclusive reference point for Irish artistic culture.
An alternative meeting place, from 1923, was the Dublin painters gallery where, among other things, the main protagonists of modernism exhibited: M. Jellett and E. Hone. Despite the more intense contacts with European experiences and the solutions proposed by small groups of more up-to-date artists (White Stag of Dublin), the Irish art of the immediate postwar period aimed at a reworking of traditional naturalism (centered on portrait or landscape representation) and offered, with the works of T. Carr, N. Reid, P. Collins and C. Clarke, Valuable Solutions. In 1943 the first of the numerous Exhibitions of living art took place which, reacting to the dominant formal traditionalism, presented works by L. le Brocquy, C. King, C. Souter, G. Dillon alongside those of numerous foreign artists, providing a more vast and dynamic panorama of the Irish avant-garde. In addition to the intense activity of private galleries, including the Dawson Gallery and the Hendriks Gallery, an important contribution to the dissemination of new trends was made by the Dublin municipal gallery of modern art and the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
Although attentive to the most diverse experiences of the European avant-garde, Irish art between the end of the 20th century. and the beginning of the 21st shows a prevalent expressionist tendency, evident both in the works of J. Yeats and A. Madden and in the later ones of P. Graham and B. Maguire. Alongside an intense graphic experimentation, the sculptural production also appears very rich, ranging from the traditional figurative and commemorative solutions of E. Delaney and J. Behan to the more up-to-date abstract and conceptual experiences of H. Heron, J. Coleman and J. Aiken. In the figurative field, the urban landscapes of C. Brennan and the realistic ones by T. Geoghegan and M. Gale; in neo-expressionist style work P. Graham, M. Mulcahy and B. Maguire, which deals with social issues. The development of sculpture and installation was important, thanks also to public commissions. We remember the personalities of M. Warren, who creates monumental geometric abstract structures; S. Cullen, with installations and videos; K. Prendergast, with three-dimensional drawings and works; D. Cross; W. Doherty, which uses videos, films, photographs and images taken from the mass media. In the field of films and video-installations we still mention J. Irvine, A. Tallentire, G. Weir and S. Hapaska.
In architecture the personality of M. Scott prevails who led the Irish arts council from 1975, the year of its foundation, playing an important role in the diffusion of modernism also through the impulse given with L. le Brocquy to industrial design. Inspired by international languages is the architectural production of the Scott Tallon Walker studio (Wood Quay civic offices in Dublin, 1994); with high-tech trends is the work of H. Murray and S. O’Laoire (pavilion for tourist information at Civic Park in Limerick, 1991) and that of Ireland Campbell (Railway transport gallery of Cultra, County Down, 1993); of rationalist ancestry is the library of the Regional technical college of Bishopstown a Cork (1996), by S. de Blacam and J. Meagher. Neorationalists are also the works of J. Tuomey (Smithfield Courthouse, Dublin, 1987) and by R. Allies and G. Morrison (British Embassy in Dublin, 1995). The redevelopment of the historic centers is noteworthy: among others, that of Temple Bar in Dublin, the new cultural district of the old city, the subject of a competition (1987-92) won by Group 91, an association made up of some of the best local design studios (S. O’Donnell, J. Tuomey, Grafton Architects, McCullogh Mulvin Architects, D. Tynen, P. Keogh, S. Cleary); refurbishment of the Dublin docklands area (Grand Canal Square, 2007).