The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

Inaugural John Maiben Gilmartin Award 2024 presented to Priscilla Sonnier


Posted by IGS

Priscilla Sonnier & Michael Wall (JM Gilmartin Award 2024)

Irish Georgian Society's Chairperson Michael Wall presents Dr Priscilla Sonnier with the inaugural John Maiben Gilmartin Award at the Society's summer drinks party at Shankill Castle, Kilkenny on Saturday 29th June 2024. (Photo courtesy of Scott Hayes)

The Irish Georgian Society's John Maiben Gilmartin Award 2024 was presented to Dr Sonnier. The sum of €4,125 will assist Dr Sonnier in travelling to the Yale Centre of British Art, New Haven and the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. This funding from the John Maiben Gilmartin Award will provide her with the opportunity to consult and transcribe numerous eighteenth-century Irish manuscripts, rare works on paper and artworks from their special collections. The research undertaken at these institutions also will support a forthcoming talk to the Society, in addition to material for future publications that present new perspectives into gendered patronage and ‘improvement’, and the socio-cultural evolution of Irish portraiture during the Ascendancy period.

The materials viewed at archives and collections at Yale and Manchester strongly contributes to prior research completed during Priscilla’s PhD (University College Dublin, 2023), and particularly supports a comparative case study of instructional drawing manuals and their nuanced contributions to the social geography of ‘patriotism’ in late-eighteenth-century Ireland. These manuals, which were published in Dublin and sold in local print shops for contemporary hobbyists to learn from, feature a broad range of subject matter with examples of portraiture, architecture and the natural world by Irish artists associated with the Dublin Society Schools. This case study, which addresses the distinct visual and cultural significance of ‘improvement as practice’ in drawing manuals that were specifically created for the Irish print market, will be presented for consideration in an upcoming volume of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies.

The Society wishes Dr Sonnier well with her next phase of research. We also would like to take the opportunity to thank our JM Gilmartin assessor panel comprises: Dr Fintan Cullen, Professor Emeritus, School of Culture, Languages and Area Studies, University of Nottingham; Dr Conor Lucey, Associate Professor, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin; and Dr Finola O’Kane, Professor, School of Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy, University College Dublin.


The John Maiben Gilmartin Award, named for and endowed by the noted art historian, is a new prize granted annually by the Irish Georgian Society to support research in the history of Irish art, architecture and designed landscape, and of culture and society in Ireland of the long eighteenth century (broadly defined).

This award is open to post-doctoral researchers and early career scholars – that is, individuals who have been awarded their PhD degree within the previous seven years. Funds may be used to cover travel and accommodation costs for the purposes of research abroad or may be used to offset fees associated with academic publication, including for image rights and reproduction. All enquiries regarding applying for the award should be directed to Emmeline Hederson, IGS Assistant Director & Conservation Manager.

Donnybrook Fair
Francis Wheatley (1747–1801, English), Donnybrook Fair, 1788, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1977.14.6316 (Public Domain)