Portrait of Edna O’Brien by photographer Mandy O’Neill unveiled at National Gallery of Ireland on writer’s 90th birthday

Photographic diptych portrait of Edna O'Brien by Mandy O'Neill
Mandy O'Neill, Edna O’Brien (b.1930), author, poet, memoirist, 2020.Credit

Commission by winner of Zurich Portrait Prize added to national portrait collection

A new portrait of celebrated Irish writer Edna O’Brien was today unveiled at the National Gallery of Ireland. The work is a commission by photographer Mandy O’Neill, winner of the Zurich Portrait Prize 2018. The unveiling falls on the 90th birthday of Edna O’Brien, with the diptych becoming the latest addition to the National Portrait Collection at the Gallery.

Mandy O’Neill won the Zurich Portrait Prize 2018 at the National Gallery of Ireland with her portrait of a Dublin school student, Diane, Larkin Community College, 2018. She is a visual artist working primarily with photography, installation and text. Mandy is currently Artist in Residence at Dublin City University.

One of Ireland’s most acclaimed writers, Edna O'Brien has written over twenty works of fiction since her debut novel The Country Girls. She has also written numerous short story collections, plays and works of non-fiction. O’Brien is the recipient of many awards, including the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award in 2020 for her latest novel, Girl. Born and raised in the west of Ireland, she has lived in London for many years.

Dr Brendan Rooney, Head Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland, said, “The National Gallery of Ireland is delighted to include Edna O’Brien among an impressive list of Irish literary greats already represented in the national portrait collection. In an outstanding portrait, Mandy O’Neill presents her subject as both outwardly confident and intensely introspective.”

The commission is on display at the National Gallery of Ireland. Admission is free. This year’s Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize exhibitions run until March 2021 at the Gallery.

Media contact:
Kate O’Leary, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 087 334 1587

Notes to Editor:

  • Artist Mandy O’Neill is available for interview.
  • Head Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland, Brendan Rooney, is available for interview.
  • Images of the portrait and images of the unveiling are available on request. 

About Mandy O’Neill:
Mandy O’Neill is an Irish visual artist working primarily with photography, installation and text. Her practice draws on themes of youth, community, and institutions, with a particular interest in the dynamics between people and place. Over the past decade she has worked within educational and community settings, and in particular with children and young people in formal education contexts in primary and post-primary schools in central Dublin. This experience has shaped the trajectory of her practice over a number of years as she has witnessed both social and political change, and fundamental shifts in how photographic images are made, understood and distributed. Conscious of the fractious history of photographic representation of others, she continually questions the power dynamics between photographer and subject and seeks to create a more discursive space. She has an MA in Public Culture Studies from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin and a BA in Photography from the TU Dublin. Her work has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and her images are held in public and private collections. She has been shortlisted for the Hennessy and Julia Margaret Cameron Awards and in 2018 was the winner of the Zurich Portrait Prize at the National Gallery of Ireland. She has received grants from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland and Dublin City Council. Mandy is currently Artist in residence at Dublin City University and recently began a PhD at DCU.

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.

National Gallery at Home:
For those who are unable to visit the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment, there are many ways to engage with the national collection online. ‘National Gallery at Home’ includes videos, Works of the Day, Mindfulness and Art, and at-home activities connected to the national collection. Virtual tours of iconic spaces such as the Shaw Room and the Grand Gallery, as well as exhibition Murillo: The Prodigal Son Restored, can also be explored from home.