Furlong, George Joseph

Full Name: 
Furlong, George Joseph
Date Born: 
1898
Date Died: 
1987
Place Born: 
Dundrum, County Tipperary, Ireland
Place Died: 
London, England, UK
Home Country: 
Ireland
Gender: 
male
Overview: 

Director of the National Gallery in Dublin. Furlong was orphaned at nine years old and educated by Jesuits at Clongowes Wood. He attended University College, Dublin and his graduate studies were at Grenoble, Paris (the Sorbonne), Munich. He received his Ph.D. in Vienna writing on the topic of 10th and 11th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination. As a student in Munich he observed Hitler's 1923 abortive putsch. A homosexual, Furlong developed strong antipathies to Nazism. In 1936 he assisted the Jewish Viennese art historian Otto Pächt in escaping from Austria by issuing him an invitation to Ireland. Furlong obtained a position as an Assistant Keeper at the National Gallery, London in 1930, lecturing at the Tate and National Galleries. By 1935 he had been appointed Director of the National Gallery in Dublin, the youngest person to ever hold that position. With limited resources at the Irish museum, he nevertheless purchased major works of art, many, such as those by Gentileschi, Crespi and Castiglione, underappreciated at the time. Furlong had to contend with conservative trustees on the museum board who rejected paintings by Monet, Gauguin and Roualt. His involvement in the Lane Bequest brought him additional controversy. He remained at the Gallery for fifteen years, lecturing and writing. In addition, he performed examiners duties in art history at both Trinity College and University College Dublin. When trustees at the Gallery turned down Murillo's Christ Healing at Bethesda, Furlong resigned in protest and moved to London in 1950. (The painting was subsequently purchased by the National Gallery, London). He lived there the remainder of his life with his partner, Rex Britcher.

Selected Bibliography: 
"The National Gallery of Ireland." Studio 138 (August 1949): 33-43.
Sources: 
The Times (London), May 28 1987.