In 1916,The Royal Hibernian Academy had been nearly one hundred years in its specially built gallery in Abbey Street, Dublin. Endowed by the RHA`s second President, architect Francis Johnson, the large and imposing building contained not just exhibition spaces for painting and sculpture , but also drawing schools and an apartment for the Keeper of the Academy.
Over the Easter weekend of 1916, during which the RHA`s annual exhibition was taking place, the British gunboat “Helga” shelled the GPO and the area around it. The RHA building caught fire and was quickly destroyed. The Keeper, who was on the premises, managed to save some objects including the Royal Charter but almost all of the books, pictures and academy records were burnt, as were all the works in the annual exhibition. The RHA was eventually compensated for its losses…. leading to a wry comment from one of the academicians that it was probably the one and only time that all the artists showing in the annual exhibition got paid for their work!