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and The Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Ireland and the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland, 1987. 208 pp., illus. IRE12.00. Reviewed by Patricia Butler, Askefield House, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland. Dealing with a topicnever before pursued with such single-minded intensity, this study of Irish women artists must not be considered anti-feminist. Rather here is a revelation of the extraordinary range of richness, diversity and talent spanning 2% centuries exhibited by women painters who frequently worked against extraordinary odds. Essays by such distinguishedarthistoriansasAnneCrookshank of Trinity College, Dublin, provide a fascinating insight into the very real difficulties faced by these women, particularly in the eighteenth century, when trying to exhibit and selltheir work. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the situation did improve somewhat with women artists travelling, training and selling their work abroad, whilst the twentieth century saw many Irish women, like their female European andAmericancontemporaries,gravitating to Paris. Indeed as Julian Campbell points out in his essay(“Art Studentsand Lady Travellers: Irish Women Artists in France, 1870-1930”, p. 17) “It could be argued, that nearly all of the important women artists of this period werestudents in Paris at some stage in their careers”. The introduction of the Modern movement in art into Ireland was largely influenced by such daring Paris ‘pioneers’ as Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett and Norah McGuinness, the latter two painters having become founder members of the Irish Exhibition of LivingArt, which was first held in 1943 and must stand as a milestone in Irish contemporary art. Meanwhile, the efforts of their talented Irish sisterswho had stayed at home were not ignored. Largelythrough their artistic gifts and creativity the Arts and Crafts Society was born in 1894. The sisters of poet William Butler Yeats, Elizabeth and Lily, were keen participants in the movement, joining together to establish the well-known Cuala Industries in 1908. Some interesting facts arise from the research carried out for this fascinating study. Half of the now-deceased women artists remained single all of their lives. Did their talents dissuade would-be suitors?Or did they submergethemselves in their painting to compensate for being unattractive andunwooed?The Protestant minority is strongly represented as evidenced by the fact that out of the 140 artists mentioned, 120 were Protestant. Perhaps the good nuns felt the Bohemian life of the atelier might prove too great a temptation for their young ladies? But on a more serious note, one must regret that in severalcasesin the book the photography is not up to the highest standards.This isparticularly acute in the case of artists such as Camille Souter and Kathy Prendergast, the subtlety and delicacy of whose work is submerged in badly presented representations. Several biographical entries reveal that the contributors did not carry out their homework as diligently as they might have done-in many cases, the references to the artists are uneven and inaccurate. This is particularly striking in the case of Helen Colvill, who is listed without a date of birth and was according to her contributor “presumably born in Dublin” (p. 156). A brief encounter with Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland (1958) would confirm that she was born in 1856, that her surname was Colvill (no final ‘e’ as shown in the entry) and that she was the youngest daughter of Chaigneau Colvill of Coolock House, County Dublin. The standard of catalogue entries by the National Gallery of Ireland which covers the period from the eighteenth century to c. 1943is far more diligent and thorough than those relating to the other two venues,namelytheDouglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin, and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, also in the Irish capital. However, these are small points. One of the great advantages of this handsome volume with its striking cover portrait is the section devoted to a “Dictionary of Irish Women Artists”, which will be invaluable for future reference. Here for thefirst time is a serious attemptto record the biographical details of Irish women artists working from the eighteenth century to the present day. Included are several exciting entries, amongst them Henrietta Dering, whose earliest known pastels are dated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 331-332
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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