A showcase of archival material related to Irish women artists

Vintage black and white photo of women posing with a medical skeleton model
Artists from the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, c.1910. Image © National Gallery of Ireland

[In]Visible: Irish Women Artists from the Archives at the National Gallery of Ireland
July - December 2018
Room 11
Admission free

The National Gallery of Ireland presents a showcase of archival material related to Irish women artists from the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art and the Yeats Archive collections. 

Women artists were crucial in the production and exhibition of modern art and craft in early twentieth-century Ireland, and they played a key role in conceiving and administering major exhibitions and enterprises. Letters, scrapbooks, photographs and art materials shed light on the education, career and recognition of Irish artists such as Mary Swanzy, Sarah Purser, Mainie Jellett, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats and Evie Hone. 

Leah Benson, archivist and curator of the exhibition, says:

“This exhibition looks at the background to the women artists who are represented in our archive collections, and the paths they forged for themselves to become visible despite the obstacles put in their paths. What is wonderful about the archive collections is that they contextualise the pictures you see on the walls, they give us the stories behind what really went into creating those finished works of art.”

The exhibition marks the start of the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art’s digitisation project Source–an ambitious three-year project to catalogue and make accessible online the Gallery’s archive and library collections relating to Irish art.

Curators | Leah Benson, Emma O’Toole and Tanya Keyes, Library & Archives, National Gallery of Ireland

About the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art

The ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art houses the Gallery’s Irish art library and archive and is one of the most important and valuable research collections of its kind. Developed over the course of the Gallery’s 150-year history, the collection reflects the institution’s significant and ongoing role in preserving Ireland’s visual cultural heritage through the acquisition and accumulation of associated documentation. Comprising a variety of primary and secondary material relating to over 2,500 individual artists and more than 1,000 arts organisations, the collection documents and represents aspects of the life and work of many of the people and organisations that have contributed to the development of Irish art and its history. This includes celebrated artists such as Paul Henry, William Orpen, Walter Osborne, Sarah Purser, Mary Swanzy, and Jack B. Yeats as well as the many arts organisations, galleries, historians and critics associated with the production, exhibition and interpretation of art in Ireland. Since it was established in 2002, a wide range of researchers and historians have used these collections to enrich our understanding of the history of art in Ireland. Inspired by their work, the ESB CSIA continues to explore new opportunities and projects to enhance its collections and resources and to promote interest in Irish art and its history. The ESB CSIA reading room is open to all members of the public by appointment. Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm. T: + 353 1 6325517 E: [email protected]  

About the Yeats Archive

The Yeats archive consists of a prestigious collection of material donated to the Gallery by Anne Yeats in 1996 and several additional collections acquired since. These collections relate to Jack B. Yeats and members of his extended family and include highlights such as the artist's sketchbooks which cover over fifty years of his career, books from Yeats’s own library, a collection of journals, theatre programmes, original manuscripts, photographs, postcards and letters, as well as general memorabilia such as the artist’s easel and smock. The collection also includes material relating to Mary Cottenham Yeats and an extensive collection of old ballads, ballad books and maps. In addition, the archive holds material pertaining to other members of the Yeats family including W.B. Yeats, John Butler Yeats, his sisters Susan Mary ('Lily') and Elizabeth ('Lolly'), niece Anne Yeats and cousin Ruth Pollexfen. The Cuala and Dun Emer Presses are also well represented. The Yeats archive is available to all members of the public by an appointment. 
Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm. T: + 353 1 6633454 E: [email protected]

About Source

Source is a significant online digital preservation project initiated by the National Gallery of Ireland, that documents, records and uncovers the stories of art in Ireland. Source is supported by funding from the Creative Ireland Programme, as part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The project allows the Gallery to digitally preserve, catalogue and enhance historically and culturally important collections of Irish art and artists. Source began with the digitisation of archives of women artists 1850-1950 and connects and engages with national and international initiatives commemorating women’s suffrage and the national gender equality policy and programmes. The project makes accessible the unique collections relating to Ireland’s visual heritage and ensures that Ireland’s artistic history and memory is available to the nation.