Margaret Clarke (1888-1961)

Margaret Clarke (1888-1961), Julia O' Brien (1906-1987)

Margaret Clarke (1888-1961)
Julia O’Brien (1906-1987)

Graphite on paper, 71.4 x 48.5 cm
Purchased, 2007
NGI.2007.21

Born in Newry, Co. Down in 1888, Margaret Crilly won a scholarship in 1905 to attend the Dublin Metropolitan School of art, where she studied under William Orpen (1878-1931). He regarded her as one of his most promising pupils. In 1914 she married fellow student Harry Clarke (1889-1931) and established herself as a portrait painter. Following her husband’s premature death in 1931, she became director of the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios, but continued practising as an artist.

Julia O’Brien worked as a maid and nanny in the Clarke household during the 1920s. She was also one of Margaret Clarke’s principal models, and appears frequently throughout her work. Clarke often depicts Julia in a pensive mood during moments of introspection. In this intimate portrayal she skilfully captures the young woman’s sense of innocence and vulnerability, as well as her impish features and attenuated limbs. In 1939, a critic celebrated the artist’s ‘remarkable drawings in which individuality is caught in a few swift economical lines’.

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