William Burton Conyngham and His Irish Circle of Antiquarian Artists Peter Harbison

Publication date:
30 Nov 2012
Paul Mellon Centre
244 pages: 286 x 241mm
100 color + 20 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


In the midst of a resurgence of pride in Ireland's history during the 18th century, William Burton, later Conyngham (1733-1796), strove to emulate his British counterparts in producing albums of engravings illustrating the beauties of the country's heritage. To further his aims, he formed the Hibernian Antiquarian Society, which lasted only four years due to internal strife. Nevertheless, Burton Conyngham began acquiring drawings of antiquities, and then commissioned Gabriel Beranger and his fellow artists Angelo Bigari and John James Barralet to make sketches of dolmens, churches, abbeys and castles in areas which were not represented in existing works.

In its day, Burton Conyngham's was regarded as the most significant collection of such drawings in Ireland. This volume reconstructs that collection, cataloguing more than 600 drawings, which he was known to have secured by about 1780. Also presented in this monograph is the considerable number of copies that were made of the original works as security against damage to the collective whole or the death of its owner.

Peter Harbison is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and its honorary academic editor.

'This is a superb book, which is not only important for those who wish to explore the images of monuments from over 200 years ago but is also an insightful account of the early days of antiquarianism in Ireland.' Archaeology Ireland

'Beautifully and generously illustrated, Peter Harbison has not only reconstructed how a late 18th century collection of antiquarian drawings came to be made, in doing so he has also brought more of the Irish 18th century into the subtle tones of watercolour that illustrate this remarkable book.' Finola O’Kane-Crimmins, Irish Arts Reviews

'This impressive contribution to the history of Irish antiquities is the result of two decades of study by Peter Harbison, to whom all those with an interest in Irish art and architecture must indeed be indebted.' Ian Robertson, The British Art Journal