The Egan Gallery was located on Dublin's Ormond Quay, and later, on St. Stephen's Green. The archive provides a rare and unique primary document of the Irish art scene of the time and of the specific workings of this important exhibition space.
The Daniel Egan Gallery Collection dates from 1855 to the 1920s and was donated to the Library by the Egan family in 1998, along with a type-written geneology of the Egan family.
The Daniel Egan Archive – An Introduction
The Daniel Egan archive reveals the story of a business that opened in the 1840s on Bachelor’s Walk on the north side of Dublin city, and closed nearly one hundred years later, in 1937. It all began with one Daniel Egan, a frame maker and gilder. His father had been a boot and shoe maker, but Daniel apprenticed himself to a gilder, and borrowed money to open his own business premises in the 1840s. We know from the evidence in the archive that Daniel was an excellent note keeper. He wrote in tiny script in small notebooks with covers made from leftover legal parchment. Fastidious in his record keeping, Daniel’s notebooks contain lists of artists and their subjects, the ingredients necessary for cleaning various types of art work, the composition of gold required for gilding, medicinal remedies for several types of bodily dysfunction, the names of his employees, notes about postal charges, along with drawings of several types of picture moulding and his business accounts. The names of various clients reveal an extensive network, and read like a who’s who of Dublin and London society. In addition, the archive contains an album of highly detailed watercolour paintings of various types of gilded frames and furniture which were presumably painted by Daniel Egan.
Daniel Egan moved his premises to Ormond Quay, and the business remained very successful. It was eventually taken over by one of his sons, also Daniel. He died in 1910 at the age of 45, leaving several children, two of whom were Patrick and Joseph. Daniel died intestate, so his sister, Annie Egan, took over the business as administrator, but eventually signed over the business and premises to Daniel’s son, Joseph, in 1918. Patrick continued to work in the business with his brother.
Joseph Egan closed the Ormond Quay site in 1923 after the building, and the area, had been badly damaged by the Civil War. Records in the archive mention that he had become bankrupt. He re-opened on St Stephen’s Green in 1925, then calling the business the Daniel Egan Salon, later to become the Daniel Egan Gallery, then the Angus Gallery. Joseph continued to make and gild frames and furniture, but became perhaps better known at the time for the activities of the gallery in which he held several highly successful exhibitions of Irish and international art between 1925 and 1937. As fastidious as his forebear, Joseph Egan kept a diary of his artistic activities which offers a fascinating glimpse into his life and social context. He also kept a Daniel Egan Gallery scrapbook containing catalogues, newspaper cut outs and photographs pertaining to his exhibitions. The gallery became well known during its heyday as the centre for a group of writers, poets and painters who called themselves the Radical Club. The archive also contains a gallery visitor’s book giving names of several well-known personalities of the day.
In October 1927 Joseph Egan published the first edition of the Dublin Art Monthly. His business partner, and editor of the publication, was George Edmund Lobo. It was a difficult partnership which was eventually dissolved in court in February 1928. As a result, the Dublin Art Monthly only ran for six editions, with the final one published in March 1928. There is a full set of the publication in the Daniel Egan Archive.
According to information in the archive, when the business on St Stephen’s Green closed in 1937, Joseph Egan left paintings in storage with his brother and engineered sales of those works from his base in England. Interestingly, one of those paintings is reputed to have been the life size portrait of Countess Markievicz, painted by her husband, Count Markievicz, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland.
Dr Éimear O’Connor HRHA