A visit to Malahide Castle where some of the portraits by artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton are housed.

Irish portrait painter Hugh Douglas Hamilton was born in Dublin in 1739. He lived on Crow Street where his father was a wig maker. At the age of 11, he was sent to the Dublin Society school and studied art under Robert West. By the age of 16, he had won a prize for drawing and began making portraits.

He painted small pictures in ovals about nine by seven inches in pastel on grey paper.

His portraits could be completed quickly and he received many patrons. In an effort to extend his practice, he moved to London. Again, his portraits proved popular in London and he was commissioned for many works including members of the royal family. He then spent 12 years in Italy. In 1791, he returned to Dublin and bought a house on the corner of Clare Street and Merrion Square. His success as an artist continued.

It was at this stage that the Le Poer Trench and Stewart families brought him to Heywood House in Ballinakill, County Laois to carry out a commission of the family portraits many of which now hang at Malahide Castle, Dublin. Many of the portraits were in pastels but he also did a series of oil paintings. The collection at Malahide Castle consists of 12 oil paintings most of which are repetitions of pastels.

Hugh Douglas Hamilton's daughter Harriet had also become an artist and had learnt to copy works by old masters while in Italy. It is likely that Harriet was employed to paint the frames and paint the coats of arms above each frame. James White goes into detail about the different approaches and styles taken between pastel and oil paintings.

This episode of 'Eye of the Artist' was broadcast on 5 November 1986. The presenter is James White, former director of the National Gallery of Ireland.