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Tuesday 18 June 2019

Brian Boru is back ashore for 1,000th anniversary

Battle of Clontarf
Battle of Clontarf
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

An iconic image of the Battle of Clontarf has returned to Irish soil after a 35-year stint in Hawaii, just in time to take centre stage for the millennium year commemorations.

The large painting by 19th-century artist Hugh Frazer is the accompanying image for several historical books and most online articles about the best-known battle in Irish history.

However, it is thought to have never been publicly displayed before in this country.

It depicts High King of Ireland Brian Boru in his tent overlooking the battle in 1014, with Viking longboats dotted across the sweep of Dublin Bay.

After three decades hanging in the Isaacs Art Centre in Waimea, in the South Kohala district of the Big Island in Hawaii, the piece has now been purchased by Irish private equity firm Kildare Partners for an unknown sum.

Coincidentally, just weeks before the purchase, Collette Gill of the Clontarf Historical Association had written to the Isaacs Art Centre asking for permission to reproduce the image on flyers promoting the commemorative events on April 23 centred around the 1,000th anniversary.

Kildare Partners were notified of the interest by the gallery and subsequently got in touch with the Clontarf 2014 committee.

The painting, which is 3m x 2m, will go on display free of charge to the public at the Casino in Marino.

Emer Finan of Kildare Partners said the work was "such a distinctive image of Irish history" and that it was great to have it back in the country.

Ms Gill told the Irish Independent that having merely hoped to reproduce the image for their flyers, it was "beyond their wildest dreams" to have the real thing.

Being able to display it at the Casino in Marino was particularly special since the site has views which are virtually identical to the backdrop in the painting. "It could well have been the site from which Frazer painted it," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Gill revealed that she has managed to get in touch with the painting's former owner, George Isaac, an American philanthropist whose grandparents had fled Ireland during the Famine.

He had originally purchased it in the late 1970s from a friend, a "well-known Irish businessman" who was moving to London and who didn't have room for it in his new apartment.

Mr Isaac bought it and immediately shipped it to his Hawaiian ranch where it hung for 12 years before he donated it to the Art Centre he established in his own name in the 1990s.

"He is absolutely delighted that it has now been returned to Ireland," said Ms Gill. The painting will go on display at the Casino on March 15 until April 24. It will then have a new home in Dublin at another venue which has yet to be decided.

Irish Independent

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