Film Review: Citizen Lane

Born in County Cork, Hugh Lane played an intrinsic role in championing the arts in, and of, Ireland. A dealer and collector, he was renowned for having a nose for a bargain and eye for spotting both painting and painter. A man of myriad contradictions, whose generosity knew no bounds but who established a reputation for being frustratingly frugal. He had grand visions though and although he spent much of his time outside of country, his thoughts were never too far away.

His aunt, Lady Gregory, reconnected him with his homeland and he soon became a mainstay of Dublin’s artistic circles. He had a dream, to create a public gallery of modern art in the Irish capital. However, this idea met a lot of resistance, both in terms of access to art for all and the spending of public money on something considered to be frivolous, in a time of great poverty. Citizen Lane tells his story.

Citizen Lane is a docudrama which shines the light of one of Ireland’s forgotten sons. Using dramatic reconstructions (featuring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Lane) and contemporary interviews with experts, Thaddeus O’Sullivan highlights the pivotal role he played, legacy and re-evaluation of his importance years after his tragic death. It’s a strange was to construct a portrait, but it works in a kind of low-key way. In a sense, it’s remarkably apt.  

Citizen Lane is available online from 12 April.

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