Robert O’Byrne is a writer specialising in the fine and decorative arts, and an Apollo columnist. He blogs at

The budding stars of Irish botanical art

Patricia Butler’s account of 300 years of botanical drawings from Ireland is both a history of art and a history of science

3 Nov 2023

An insider’s guide to 18th-century Ireland

Robert O’Byrne reads between the lines of the itemised contents of great Irish houses

30 Jan 2023
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (after Piranesi) (2016), Emily Allchurch.

The contemporary artists who are paying their respects to Piranesi

Piranesi may have fallen out with his Irish patron but, in modern-day Dublin, artists inspired by his example are looking to mend fences

26 Jul 2022

Why was the Royal Academy so willing to let one of its most treasured pieces go?

Sixty years ago the Royal Academy announced the sale of a cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci to fund its activities, but did it make the right decision?

27 Jun 2022

Can an exhibition represent a nation?

Exhibitions can successfully capture a cultural and social moment, but they are as much a glimpse into the mindset of the curators as they are into the art of that time

30 May 2022
chesterfield house London

The rise and fall of Chesterfield House

Once one of London’s most impressive private palaces, the house successfully melded a mix of architectural styles but this wasn’t enough to save it from its fate

28 Apr 2022
The rue Notre-Dame des Champs, Paris the Entrance to Sargent’s Studio (1907), Walter Sickert. The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Walter Sickert may have tackled some taboos – but that doesn’t make him a serial killer

Modern critics (and conspiracy theorists) have focused on the painter’s decadent side, but his subjects reflect the society of his day

4 Apr 2022

A tribute to Homan Potterton (1946–2020)

As a young museum director, Homan Potterton transformed the National Gallery of Ireland’s collection – but he would resign suddenly, later gaining success as a writer

6 Jan 2021
Desmond Guinness. Photo: Amelia Stein; courtesy Irish Georgian Society

‘An amplitude of personal charm’ – Desmond Guinness (1931–2020)

Desmond Guinness fought against the odds, and often against public opinion, to save Irish Georgian houses – and the nation will be forever in his debt

24 Aug 2020
The remains of a late medieval church in Garryvoe , Co Cork.

Celtic revival? Recording Ireland’s historic buildings

Would that the Buildings of Ireland series could be completed – the architectural riches of Central Leinster and Cork are well served by two new volumes

28 Jul 2020

Midcentury unmodern – how antique furnishings fell out of fashion

In the October 1945 issue of Apollo, readers ‘of moderate means’ were advised to invest in brown furniture – an unpopular but economical choice

20 Jun 2019
Eyrecourt, Co. Galway (n.d.), John Nankivell.

The drawings that capture Ireland’s crumbling castles

John Nankivell has specialised in recording decaying historic buildings, but his work also provides some reasons for hope

12 Sep 2018

The artists of Georgian Dublin deserve another look

An exhibition celebrating the Society of Artists in Ireland casts light on some lesser-known 18th-century figures

28 Jun 2018
The Reading Room of the National Library of Ireland, Dublin. The library has been allocated €23m by the Irish government to upgrade its facilities.

Ireland is finally splashing out on its heritage – but why now?

The Irish government has announced a grand investment package for the country’s culture sector. But is it too little, too late?

29 May 2018

Nicola Gordon Bowe (1948–2018)

The scholar, teacher and advocate of the applied arts of 20th-century Ireland has died at the age of 69

11 Jan 2018
Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864), Frederic William Burton. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

The man who made Ireland’s favourite painting

Frederic William Burton’s sentimental watercolour scenes reflect the taste of a bygone era

10 Jan 2018

The Irish art galleries ringing the changes in 2018

Highlights in Dublin and Cork this year include exhibitions on Brian Maguire, Wolfgang Tillmans and Mary Swanzy

4 Jan 2018
Letters from W.B. Yeats to Olivia Shakespear, part of the Yeats Family Collection be auctioned at Sotheby's London on 27 September

The Yeats Collection sale is only the latest sign of Ireland’s broken heritage export system

It’s time for leading cultural figures to work with the state to reform Irish heritage protection

25 Sep 2017
View of the entrance and façade of the National Gallery of Ireland, 2017, Photo: © National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland enters a new era

The National Gallery of Ireland’s six-year-long refurbishment gives its Old Masters and Irish paintings a chance to shine

10 Jun 2017
Vase of Flowers (1924), Henri Matisse. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The fake feud between Picasso and Matisse

Shortly after Matisse’s death, Clive Bell called time on the artist’s rivalry with Picasso – and rightly so

10 Apr 2017

A look back over Rodin’s rollercoaster career

The French sculptor attracted commissions and controversy in equal measure, and his reputation is constantly being reassessed

21 Mar 2017
The Finnish art historian Tancred Borenius (1885–1948), photographed in his office in 1940. Photo: William Vandivert/Getty Images

‘He helped set the standard for Apollo’

Tancred Borenius (1885–1948), one of Apollo’s earliest contributors, is remembered for his significant contribution to art history and criticism

27 Feb 2017
Single-volume Qur’an (1340–41), copied by Arghun al-Kamili, possibly Iraq, Jalayirid period. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul

A look back at the beautifully inventive art of the Mamluks

The artistic achievements of the Mamluks rival those of the Renaissance, argued Mahonri Sharp Young in a 1981 issue of Apollo

24 Feb 2017

The flower painter who was fed up with his masterpieces

Henri Fantin-Latour’s finest works are the flower paintings that he made in bulk – but he didn’t think so

14 Jan 2017