Sir Hugh Percy Lane

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Hugh Percy Lane

Birthplace: County Cork, Ireland
Death: May 07, 1915 (39)
Irish Channel
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev William James Lane and Frances Adelaide Lane
Brother of William Alfred Lane

Occupation: art collector and philanthropist
Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:

About Sir Hugh Percy Lane

Director, Municipal Art Gallery, Dublin; Cr Knight [1909]/ Died in the sinking of the Lusitania.

Sir Hugh Percy Lane (9 November 1875 – 7 May 1915) is best known for establishing Dublin's Municipal Gallery of Modern Art (the first known public gallery of modern art in the world) and for his remarkable contribution to the visual arts in Ireland, including the Lane Bequest. He died on board the RMS Lusitania.


Hugh Percy Lane was born in County Cork, Ireland on 9 November 1875. He was brought up in Cornwall, England, and began his career as an apprentice painting restorer and later became a successful art dealer in London.

Through regular visits to Coole (near Gort), County Galway, the home of his aunt, Lady Gregory, Lane remained in contact with Ireland. He soon counted among his family, friends and social circle those who collectively formed the core of the Irish cultural renaissance in the early decades of the 20th century.

Art collector

Extolling the cause of Irish art abroad, Lane also became one of the foremost collectors and dealers of Impressionist paintings in Europe, and amongst those outstanding works purchased by him for the new gallery were La Musique aux Tuileries by Manet, Sur la Plage by Degas, Les Parapluies by Renoir and La Cheminée by Vuillard.

The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art opened in January 1908 in temporary premises in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Lane hoped that Dublin Corporation would run it, but the corporation was unsure if it would be financially viable. Lane did not live to see his gallery permanently located as he died in 1915 during the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, off the west coast of Cork, the county of his birth. The Gallery, extended in 2005, is now in Parnell Square in central Dublin.

For his "services to art" in Ireland, Lane was knighted in June 1909 at the comparatively young age of 33.

Controversy over the Lane Bequest

Following his death, his will bequeathed his collection to London, but an unwitnessed later codicil bequeathed it to Dublin. Having possession, London's National Gallery did not recognise the codicil. At the request of Lane's aunt, Lady Gregory, WT Cosgrave, leader of the Irish Government unsuccessfully approached Ramsay MacDonald on the matter in 1929. When John A. Costello became Taoiseach in 1948, he initiated further negotiations with the UK government, eventually leading to a compromise in 1959, under Taoiseach Sean Lemass, whereby half of the Lane Bequest would be lent and shown in Dublin every five years. In 1993 the agreement was varied so that 31 of the 39 paintings would stay in Ireland. The remaining 8 were divided into 2 groups, so that 4 would be lent for 6 years at a time to Dublin. These 8 include works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Morisot, Vuillard and Degas. In 2008 The National Gallery in London arranged for the entire collection to be on display in Dublin together for the first time. There was a switch in May 2013 for a six-year period

Sir Hugh Lane

Sir Hugh Lane (1875 – 1915), 39, was an art collector and philanthropist who established the first known public gallery of modern art in the world, Dublin’s Municipal Gallery of Modern Art. He made significant contributions to the visual arts in Ireland and South Africa. Aboard Lusitania he was traveling with Charles and Frances Fowles. He was also rumored to be bringing with him paintings by Monet, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian. He died when the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk on 7 May 1915 by the German submarine U-20. Contents

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Sir Hugh Percy Lane's Timeline

November 9, 1875
County Cork, Ireland
May 7, 1915
Age 39
Irish Channel