Watching the autumnal light illuminating the Royal Hospital's colonnaded square, you realise this was a perfect space to rehabilitate for the modern arts. IMMA has put on a blockbuster of a show chronicling modernity in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, with a staggering 250 works by 180 artists. The body of work extends from paintings and sculpture through to films, furniture, music, first editions of books, and photographs. The big boys are all here: Louis le Brocquy's portraits hang alongside Francis Bacon's. There is a diminutive Paul Klee. Samuel Beckett's venture into cinema, the esoteric Film, stalks a frantic Buster Keaton as he draws his curtains, shrouds mirrors and puts the cat out, only to discover that the probm of self-perception remains. The Yeats brothers are here too and a first edition of Ulysses dominates a display cabinet.
A nearby cabinet holds the underrated Elizabeth Bowen's comedy of manners, The Last September. In fact, there's a sense that this show is all about re-illumining our great female artists.
Eileen Gray, who has recently been wrestled back from obscurity, was the toast of interwar Paris for her thoroughly modern designs. She is represented here by her show-stopping transat chair and architectural cabinet.
There is Mary Swanzy's cubist 'Female Nudes with Horse and Viaduct', Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone's adventures in abstraction and some of Grace Henry's lurid landscapes. Maria Simonds-Gooding's pared-down 'Habitation' brings the story up to the 1970s.
Otherwise, a cluster of Irish composers provide the soundtrack and Patrick Ireland brings a dash of politics. A tiny room holds John Hinde's impossibly idyllic scenes in garish technicolour; another Padraig Kennelly's beautiful and more candid photographs of life itself. The exhibition certainly overturns the notion that modernism passed Ireland by, showing that a whole galaxy of stars were following Ezra Pound's injunction to "Make it new!". Allow yourself a few hours to visit but you'll still want to return.
'The Moderns' runs until 13 February in IMMA's East Wing, 13 March in the West Wing and 3 April in the Gordon Lambert Galleries. Imma.ie