Portraits from The Niland Collection
Tue. 12 Dec. – Sat. 2 Mar. 2024

On the occasion of The Model’s major portrait project, The Sunset Belongs to You, we are delighted to present an exhibition of portraits drawn from The Niland Collection.

Portraiture is humanity’s most enduring artform, with roots that can be traced back to our earliest known civilisations. For hundreds of years, the only way to document a person’s physical appearance was through the creation of their likeness in drawing, sculpture or painting. At the same time, the function of a portrait has always been about more than just a record of how the subject looks. Portraits have been used to demonstrate status, wealth, morality, power and beauty, and even the inner psyche of the subject. Portraits could only be created by skilled artists, and only the very wealthy could afford to commission a likeness to be painted or sculpted. Therefore by their nature, portraits have tended to flatter their subject and emphasise their wealth and status. In this way, portraits have played an important role in the establishment of the historical record.

With the advent of the camera, capturing a person’s likeness became more democratic, and commissioned portraits went into decline. Because portraiture became unhitched from the forces of commerce and power, artists began to have more freedom to experiment with the way that they represented people. They began to pay less attention to capturing precise facial features or exact likenesses and started to develop new compositional devices, sometimes playing with colour and the background to explore what these things might reveal about the subject. While traditional portrait painting continues to flourish, in the twentieth century artists have used other materials to symbolically represent a person through portraiture. Found objects and video have all been used in new ways to create portraits.


Image credits: John Butler Yeats (1839–1922); Jack in a Straw Hat, N.D., oil on canvas.. Image courtesy of The Model, home of The Niland Collection.

Sponsors & Partners

                Sligo County Council


Current Exhibitions