Norah McGuinness HRHA (1901-1980)

Norah McGuinness 1The 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.

Norah McGuinness 2In 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.

Roderic O’Conor (1860–1940)

Roderic_o'connor_yellow_landscapeA Francophile, an exponent of Post-Impressionism, and one of the most famous figures in Irish Painting of the late 19th and early 20th century, Roderic O’Conor was born in County Roscommon and entered the Dublin School of Art (now the National College of Art and Design) at the age of 19. The following year, along with fellow artist Richard Moynan, he studied drawing and fine art painting at the Royal Hibernian Academy, before going to the Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Antwerp.

After Antwerp, O’Conor spent time in Paris where he became inspired by the outdoor Impressionist painters like Pissarro and Sisley. As a result, he developed an interest in landscape painting and duly left Paris for the Breton village of Pont-Aven (a latter day Barbizon school), where he worked alongside several artists including the Post-Impressionist painters like Paul Gauguin. In some of his 1890s paintings one can see clear traces of the painting techniques which later became known as Fauvism and Expressionism.

Roderic_O'Conor_field-of-corn-pont-avenAt the Post-Aven school, O’Conor painted two portraits of Breton girls. And in his painting Field of Corn, Pont Aven (1892) his brushwork and colouring is reminiscent of the post-Impressionist Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, who had just committed suicide.

O’Conor spent more of his life in France than any other Irish painter and unquestionably belongs to the sunny ‘Post-Impressionist’ world of the turn of the century. Inspired and engaged by the use of colour, his bold colors and color combinations give his work the stamp of true individuality. Other members of “The Antwerp School”, like Walter Osborne and Nathaniel Hill (both more mainstream Impressionists) and Joseph Kavanagh (Dutch/Belgian style) tended to shy away from O’Conor’s colourism.

After 1904, O’Conor stayed in Paris for the next eight years. Soon his oil painting developed a rich vibrancy of color and a weight of impasto which became two of his mature hallmarks. His subject matter also changed. Instead of landscapes and outdoor artwork, he switched more to painted interiors, nudes and still-life painting.

In Reclining Nude Before A Mirror (c. 1909), the subject is portrayed in a harmony of soft reds, pinks and violets under dim studio light and is reflected in a mirror, in the Baroque tradition. Other female nudes by O’Conor include: Reclining Nude (1910), Perles Rouges (1915), Reclining Nude on a Chaise Longue (1915), La Femme Au Drap Rouge (1916), Seated Nude, Half Length (1923).

He died in Nueil-sur-Layon, France in March 1940.

The auction record for a work by Roderic O’Conor was set in 2005, when his oil painting, entitled La Lisiere Du Bois, was sold at Sotheby’s, in London, for £792,000.