Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ (1602), Van Gogh's Rooftops of Paris (1886), Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (circa 1670) . . . you get the picture, or rather, you'll find the picture here. Established in 1864, and designed by Francis Fowke (who also designed London's Victoria & Albert Museum), The National Gallery of Ireland is one of Europe's finest smaller art museums, with "smaller" being a relative term: the collection holds more than 2,500 paintings and some 10,000 other works. But unlike Europe's largest art museums, the National Gallery can be thoroughly covered in a morning or afternoon without inducing exhaustion.
A highlight of the museum is the major collection of paintings by Irish artists from the 17th through 20th centuries, including works by Roderic O'Conor (1860–1940), Sir William Orpen (1878–1931), and William Leech (1881–1968). The Yeats Museum section contains works by members of the Yeats family,
including Jack B. Yeats (1871–1957), the brother of writer W. B. Yeats, and by far the best-known Irish painter of the 20th century.
The collection also claims exceptional paintings from the 17th-century French, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish schools, and works by French impressionists Monet, Sisley, and Renoir. If you are in Dublin in January, catch the sumptuous annual Turner exhibition, with paintings only displayed in the winter light that best enhances their wonders. The amply stocked gift shop is a good place to pick up books on Irish artists. Free guided tours are available on Saturday at 12:30 and on Sunday at 12:30 and 1:30.