IMMA – Modern art in a formal garden.

The 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, is, perhaps, Ireland’s foremost Classical building. But its perfect balance and symmetry hides many surprises .. it is the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), the entrance to which is announced by a fabulous giant sculpture of a hare banging a drum.

"The Drummer" Barry Flanagan

“The Drummer” Barry Flanagan

The hospital was designed by William Robinson for the Duke of Ormonde  in 1684, as a home for retired soldiers – a function it performed for 250 years. It has French influences, being inspired by Louis XIV’s home for retired soldiers, Les Invalides, and predates the Royal Hospital Chelsea by two years.

In the 20thC it fell into disrepair until restored by the State in 1984, its 300th Anniversary, and became the home of IMMA in 1991. It is now surrounded by avenues and ancient chestnut trees, dotted with sculptures from IMMA’s collection.

Sculpture by Bernar Venet

Sculpture by Bernar Venet

Below the north terrace, formerly the Master’s Garden, lies the stunning formal gardens, the main axes lined with pleached limes,

May Dn 074

and focal points created by the garden house, statuary and central fountain.

The garden today is not an historical reconstruction of what may have existed here but rather a re-creation in the spirit of a Formal garden of  the 17th and 18th centuries, as befitting the classical buildings it fronts.

Formal gardens Kilmainham Dublin

The garden house, formal statuary and the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park in the distance.

The box-hedged walks lead on, past urns and statues to the perimeter stone walls, heavily clothed in wisteria in early summer

Wisteria and aquilegia Kilmainham Dublin

The scent of the white, lavender and purple wisteria  is overwhelming

May Dn 088


Entrance to the garden is free and office workers eat their sandwiches on the scattered benches amidst the statues and box-hedged walkways.

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

The juxtaposition of modern sculpture and formality works well; here the 8 Limestone monoliths by Ulrich Rückriem overlook the formal garden, almost echoing the solidity of the yew topiary below.

8 Limestones by Ulrich Ruckriem

8 Limestones by Ulrich Ruckriem

The view from above outlines the structure created by the parterres and topiary.

Royal Hospital Kilmainham Dublin - topiary and parterres

This is Edward Delaney’s “Eve with Apple” …

"Eve with Apple" by Edward Delaney

“Eve with Apple” by Edward Delaney

… truly an Eve in a garden of Eden!

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

23 thoughts on “IMMA – Modern art in a formal garden.

  1. I am not a fan of most modern art. I have to admit. I have enjoyed the artistry of the mason work and the angel statue. I find it magnificient. I enjoy the history and culture. The grounds of the building are beautiful. The wisteria is gorgeous.

    Thanks again for the amazing tour.


      • That really doesn’t bother me. The important thing is that the building was restored to it’s former glory and the space is being used and enjoyed by the public. Just because I don’t particularly care for modern art doesn’t mean that I would deny anyone else the pleasure. I would just go to soak in the architecture and gardens.


      • I quite agree … and I think most of the original sceptics have been won over as, in any case, the gardens & buildings retain the greatest impact & their use by IMMA insures their future.


  2. You’ve captured some lovely shots here and I think all the sculptors would value somebody capturing their work with interest and sensitivity. We all like to be appreciated.


    • Many thanks Cindi, sorry about the late reply – battling with a naughty computer.
      Your Comment was much appreciated … and glad the wisteria looked at its best.


  3. Your posts are always lovely and interesting. I appreciate all the photos — and especially the ones of wisteria blooming. As you may recall, mine won’t bloom, no matter how much we prune.


  4. Cynthia, I really appreciate that. I’m always hopeful that the camera (and me) will capture what I see/feel.
    I’m sorry your wisteria isn’t flowering – it needs full sun and sometimes too much nitrogen means lots of green growth but no flowers.


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