The Irish landscape artist, graphic designer and illustrator Norah McGuinness was born in County Derry, Northern Ireland. She studied drawing and fine art painting at the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin (now the National College of Art & Design), the Chelsea Polytechnic, London, and then (on the advice of Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone) under the French artist André l’Hote, in Paris.
From France, McGuinness moved to London, becoming a member of the avant-garde London Group, and from 1937-39 she lived in New York. After America, she returned to settle in Dublin in 1940. She was elected an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1957 but resigned in 1969.
Norah McGuinness executed vivid, highly coloured, flattened landscape paintings, (as well as still-life and portrait art) in a spontaneous style influenced in part by the colourist Fauvist movement and the artist Lhote. Although her painting remained figurative, her work reveals the Cubist influence of Lhote, and she was associated with the modern movement in Ireland. A founder member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (she succeeded Mainie Jellet as President in 1944), McGuinness (like Maurice MacGonigal) first showed at the RHA in 1924 and became an honorary member (HRHA) in 1957. She exhibited her paintings and designs in Ireland at the Victor Waddington Galleries and The Dawson Gallery, Dublin, and in London at the Wertheim Gallery. Together with Nano Reid, she represented Ireland in the 1950 Venice Biennale.
In addition to paintings, Norah McGuinness executed a large number of book illustrations, theatre sets and costume designs during her career. She also designed the sales windows of Altman’s in New York and Brown Thomas, Grafton Street for over thirty years.
In 1968, a retrospective for Norah McGuinness artworks, numbering over 100, was staged by the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin. Another retrospective took place at the Frederick Gallery, Dublin, in 1996.
Her work appears in all the major Irish public collections – including: Hugh Lane Art Gallery, Dublin; Arts Council of Ireland; Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; University College Dublin; Waterford Art Gallery Collection; The Victoria and Albert Museum London; Meath County Council – as well as in several important overseas collections such as the Joseph H. Hirschorn collection in New York.
The auction record for a work by Norah McGuinness was set in 2006, when his landscape painting, entitled The Little Harvest, Mayo, was sold at James Adams, in Dublin, for €210,000.