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For the first time in Irish broadcasting history a one-hour landmark documentary "House of Art" reveals the jewels in the State art collection held within the hallowed grounds of Leinster House. Having been given unprecedented access, Ireland’s foremost portrait artist Mick O’Dea will discover the stories, the artists, and the people behind this unique art collection, revealing a rich tapestry of our socio-political history.


With over three hundred pieces of priceless art housed in Leinster House the collection has a vivid story to tell. Who decides what art is chosen? Who is the only female featured in the collection? Which is the most valuable piece of art? Who is the only former Taoiseach not featured in the portrait collection? How do the employees of Leinster House view the art? These are the questions that our presenter poses as he embarks on an enlightening visual journey into our national parliament.


History weighs heavy when you walk into Leinster House and with the foundation of the State in 1922 successive governments were keen to create a new pantheon of heroes aimed at affirming national self-image. With over eighteen thousand pieces in the State art collection, only 300 have been chosen to sit on the walls of Leinster House. We travel beyond the walls of the house to meet the artists who were to commissioned to produce work for the house. Mick speaks with artists who created portraits of our leaders. We meet with the team who hold the responsibility to preserve and restore pieces within the collection and he speaks with the longest serving ushers who look at the art every day and find out their favourites and not so favoured pieces! As Ireland’s most celebrated and esteemed historical and portrait painter Mick’s journey into the collection reveals a compelling and untold story of how Irish art and political history collide.


The film provide viewers and students of art, history and politics with unprecedented access to work that is seldom seen by the public, housed in a building which is even more elusive and rarely explored. Large portraits of Wolf Tone and Robert Emmet stand facing each other at either end of the Seanad Anti Chamber, twelve portraits of former Taoisigh sit on the walls outside the Dáil chamber, a constant reminder to new TDs of how power is a delicate balance. Hand picked and carefully curated Mick explores how each piece of art tells a story about our history, as we peel back the layers of paint a deeper story of our nation is revealed.

From Sir William Orpen to Felim Egan’s work the collection is a diverse snapshot of Irish art over 300 years. This landmark documentary will give a fresh perspective on a previously unseen collection in situ. It will be a vivid voyage of discovery and Mick’s light-hearted charm and infectious enthusiasm will dispel any stuffiness, bringing the collection to life revealing the journey that these pieces of art have made before they ended up donning the walls of Leinster House.

Presenter Mick O’Dea

Mick O’Dea hails from Ennis Co Clare, known for his is paintings of the War of Independence and most recently his exhibition in the RHA entitled The Foggy Dew which depicted the 1916 Rising in four large canvases he is Ireland’s most celebrated portrait artist and painter of historical subjects. A member of Aosdána and president of the Royal Hibernian Academy, Mick has painted portraits of Brian Friel, Martin Hayes, Michael Collins and his most recent commission is the presidential portrait of Michael D. Higgins.


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