National Gallery of Ireland launches Sarah Cecilia Harrison Essay Prize

Naturalistic half-length portrait of a pale woman with her dark hair pinned up and wearing a high-necked black blouse with floral detailing at the throat
Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863-1941), Self-Portrait. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.


The National Gallery of Ireland is pleased to announce the inaugural Sarah Cecilia Harrison Essay Prize 2022. This award celebrates the acquisition of the Hugh Lane/Sarah Cecilia Harrison archive collection and will recognise the best new research and writing on the history of women in the visual arts in Ireland. Entrants are invited to submit a 5,000 word essay. The prize is open to all members of the public over 18 years of age, and the author of the winning essay will be awarded a €1,000 prize at a reception held in the Gallery. The closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 9 September 2022. 

Sarah Cecilia Harrison was an accomplished and talented artist and curator, as well as an advocate of social reform and women’s rights in Ireland in the early-twentieth century. The Gallery acquired the Sarah Cecilia Harrison archive in 2019. Comprising over 400 letters from Sir Hugh Lane to the artist, the archive (dating from 1905-1915) provides insight into the world in which both Lane and Harrison lived and worked. This important collection will be made available to researchers in autumn 2022.

Leah Benson, Archivist, National Gallery of Ireland, commented: “In 2019, the National Gallery of Ireland acquired an exciting collection of letters relating to the artist and activist Sarah Cecilia Harrison. In partnership with the family of Sarah Cecilia Harrison, the Gallery will now establish an essay prize in her honour. The award aims to attract a diverse selection of research and writing on the history of women involved in the visual arts in Ireland and will run annually for the next 10 years. The letter collection will be launched to the public to coincide with the inaugural presentation of the essay prize in November 2022."

The central role played by women artists in the development and dissemination of modernist art in Ireland is well documented. However, the broader story of women artists in Ireland and their achievements has often gone forgotten or been viewed as ancillary to the standard canon. Archives and primary research are essential to understanding and revealing these stories. Through the development of the Gallery’s collections, engagement and learning programmes, the Gallery’s Library and Archives, including the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art (CSIA), have worked to promote Irish women artists as well as female led collectives and industries. 
This prize is generously supported by the descendants of the sister of Sarah Cecilia Harrison, Beatrice Chisholm. 

See full details for entering the Prize on the Gallery's website.

Media contacts:

Ciara Mooney, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 086 267 0574

Notes to Editor:

Competition details:

About the National Gallery of Ireland:

The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions housing the nation’s collection of European and Irish art from about 1300 to the present day, and an extensive Library & Archive. Entry to the collection is free for all to enjoy, learn and be inspired.

About the Gallery’s Library and Archives:

The Gallery’s Library and Archives hold important and valuable collections of research material, held at the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art (ESB CSIA); the Yeats Archive; and the Gallery’s institutional archives. These collections support the study and scholarly interpretation of visual art in Ireland.

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