Welcome to MASTERPIECE: Ireland's Favourite Painting.
Over the last few months, we have traveled the length and breadth of Ireland to visit our public galleries and see their collections of art. We talked to curators and other experts and asked them to nominate their favourite paintings.
But, most importantly, we also asked you, the Irish public, through Today with Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1, to nominate your favourites. The hope was to come up with a long-list of one hundred paintings that would inspire, excite and even challenge the Irish audience.
Then, back in early February, a group of respected art professionals, chaired by one enthusiastic amateur, (yours truly), gathered to reduce this inspiring, if unwieldy, long-list of one hundred paintings to a shortlist of ten. We were honoured to be joined in this by Ireland's own First Lady, Sabina Coyne.
Our sole focus was to select ten paintings on behalf of - and for - the Irish public, paintings that could be put before RTÉ's viewers and listeners to let them decide which one might earn the title of Ireland's Favourite Painting.
Over the coming weeks, across the RTÉ network and beyond, there will be numerous opportunities for you to engage with these paintings. To see them, to learn about them, to talk about them. Well-known public figures will also share their own passion for their individual favourites.
The idea behind this campaign and public vote is not to reduce painting to the level of some sort of popularity contest, (although this might hopefully provide a little fun and diversion), but more importantly, is to encourage people to go into all the wonderful galleries across the country and take pleasure from these extraordinary works of art.
Paintings provide us with a world of wonder. Don't be intimidated by the fine buildings or the art jargon or the art intelligentsia. Trust your own response, your own instincts. These are, after all, your paintings and, in these difficult times, they can be a real source of delight and inspiration on your doorstep.
Throughout my life, although I'm no expert, paintings have given me great joy. I hope that over the coming weeks you'll be able to share in some of that joy with me.
...And don't forget to vote!