The recent acquisition by the Crawford Art Gallery of Edward McGuire´s Portrait of Anthony Cronin (1972) represents a significant addition to a developing collection of portraits of Irish writers both commissioned and acquired by the Crawford. Cronin follows Jonathan Swift, whose 1735 portrait by Francis Bindon was acquired by the Crawford Gallery in 2007 to mark its accession to the status of National Cultural Institution. Portraits of writers commissioned by the Gallery include Conal Creedon by Eileen Healy (2006), Micheal O´Shiadhail by Michael O´Dea (2005) and Aidan Higgins (2003) by Suzy O´Mullane.
Other notable writers represented include Edmund Burke in James Barry´s painting ‘Burke and Barry in the Characters of Ulysses and Companions fleeing from the Cave of Polyphemus; Elizabeth Bowen by Patrick Hennessy, and three portraits, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and W. B. Yeats, by Louis le Brocquy. Frank O´Connor is represented by an early work by Norah McGuinness. The recently garlanded writer Sebastian Barry is shown in a 1991 study by John Minihan, a photographer well known for insightful portraits of Irish writers, most notably Samuel Beckett, but also Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Mannix Flynn, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Galvin, and John McGahern.
The Crawford´s collection of portraits of Irish writers is developing, but it remains far from complete. Many notable writers remain unrepresented, not least Laurence Sterne, Lady Morgan, Mary Lavin, Benedict Kiely and John B. Keane. Nevertheless, the formation of the collection over the past two decades does provides a template for the further development of an important aspect of the national art collections of Ireland in future years, particularly when seen in the light of existing portrait collections such as those at the Abbey Theatre, the Arts Council, and also the National Gallery of Ireland. The Ulster Museum collection also includes fine portraits of writers, not least Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.