Nora Niland; A Collector’s Eye
Sun. 19 Mar. – Fri. 30 Sep. 2023
“Niland thought for a moment, and then a gleam appeared in her eye, and once she had a gleam, there was no stopping her.”
The Model is pleased to present Nora Niland; A Collector’s Eye, an exhibition that traces the development of The Niland Collection from the late 1950s to the present day. This show juxta-poses artworks by both traditional and contemporary Irish artists to demonstrate the way in which The Niland Collection has grown since its foundation. A Collector’s Eye observes some of the key moments in Nora Niland’s extraordinary efforts to establish a municipal collection for Sligo. In doing so, she nurtured an extensive network of relationships, and her legacy has inspired many other acts of generosity and vision. This exhibition, therefore, focuses on important works acquired by Nora Niland, as well as other pieces added to the collection long after her tenure as Sligo County Librarian was over, but were still made possible thanks to Niland’s remarkable vision to create a cutting-edge art collection for the people of Sligo.
Nora Niland; A Collector’s Eye marks the 35th anniversary of the passing of a remarkable woman. To commemorate her lasting legacy, The Model, Home of The Niland Collection has commissioned A Portrait of Nora Niland, 2022 by one of Ireland’s most acclaimed portrait painters, Mick O’Dea. In this unique painting, O’Dea captures the essence and visionary nature of Nora Niland, and we are pleased to present the portrait to the public for the very first time as part of this exhibition.
Possibly inspired by the painting Leaving the Far Point, which Jack Butler Yeats donated to Sligo Corporation in 1954, Niland began to bring together and exhibit other examples of Yeats’ work in Sligo town from 1959 onwards. This body of work has grown to become one of Ireland’s most significant regional collections of twentieth century Irish Art, and includes works by John Butler Yeats, Mainie Jellett, Paul Henry, Sean Keating, Norah McGuinness, and many other important artists.
Nora Niland (1913-1988) was a native of County Galway and grew up in a small town called Ballinaslack, near Tuam. The eighth of nine children born into a fluent Irish speaking family, Niland graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University College Galway (now NUIG) in 1943. Soon afterwards, she was offered the position of Sligo County Librarian, where she worked until her retirement in 1980. Nora Niland remains inspirational in that she did not entertain the assumption that obstacles could obscure her vision. All who knew her recall a vibrant character, an innovative woman, and a persuasive force. These remarkable qualities, coupled with her ability to create and draw on the generosity and support of a wealth of contacts, enabled a successful career that left a lasting gift of visual art and literature to the people of Sligo.
An essay on the life and work of Nora Niland by Cormac O’Malley is available in our fully illustrated publication, The Niland Collection, which is on sale in our bookshop. The exhibition continues until September, 2023.