Painting the Nation is a brand-new series for RTÉ One which tests the talents of some of the very best amateur painters in the country.
Following a national call-out earlier in the year, seven amateur artists were selected from hundreds of hopefuls from across Ireland to vie for the honour of having a painting chosen by the Office of Public Works for the national art collection. Their challenge is to impress the judges – professional artists Una Sealy and Gabhann Dunne - as they capture some of Ireland’s most iconic people, places and traditions on canvas.
Painting The Nation judges Gabhann Dunne and Una Sealy
Ultimately, the winning artist’s painting will be chosen to hang alongside work by some of Ireland’s greatest painters in the OPW’s state art collection in Dublin Castle.
Presenter Pauline McLynn, a lover of art and the subject of many a portrait herself, shepherds our septet of amateur painters through various triumphs and disappointments; the participant list includes carpenters, geologists, full-time mums, students and grannies from across the country. Inspired by the work of iconic Irish painters like Percy French, Sir John Lavery and Paul Henry, the artists will travel around Ireland to paint great Irish landscapes, while capturing the spirit, people and culture of modern Ireland on canvas.
Weekly challenges are designed to push the amateur painters to their creative limits. From landscapes to still life to portraits, each against-the-clock challenge is designed to test a different skill. In some cases, the artists have complete artistic freedom; but from time to time, the judges up the ante by limiting the colours or changing the materials. Then there's the final Masterpiece Challenge each week, the true test of each artists’ skill and technique: subjects range from the Mountains of Mourne to the Killarney Races, a portrait of a modern Irish beauty - model-turned-chef Roz Purcell - and the majestic River Shannon.
The contestants have to create a portrait of top model Roz Purcell
Not only must the painters pull out the stops to win a coveted place in the final - they also have to impress the locals. In every location, a Painting the Nation pop-up gallery is installed, with local people invited to comment upon the paintings. What will the people of Carlingford make of the amateur painters’ renditions of the Mountains of Mourne? How will the citizens of Wicklow react to the seven different versions of their beloved Powerscourt Waterfall? What will Roz Purcell’s friends and family make of the semi-finalists’ portraits of her? And will the good people of Killarney love or loathe their renditions of the Killarney Races?
At the end of each episode, one deserving painter is named Painter Of The Week, while the dauber whose final canvas doesn’t meet the Judge’s exacting standards will leave the competition.
Ultimately, Painting The Nation is intended as a celebration of Ireland's proud history as a nation of artists, and an incentive to get those nation's creative juices flowing. Tune in, and pick up a brush while you're at it!
Painting the Nation, Sundays, 7.30pm, RTÉ One from October 2nd