Tide Receding, Dublin Bay by Norah McGuinness (1901 – 1980)

Tide Receding, Dublin Bay

Date: N.D.
Dimensions: 100.5 × 70cm
Medium: oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Purchaed 1967


Norah McGuinness’ family did not approve of her decision to become an artist and from an early age she had to support herself financially. Eschewing teaching she turned first to illustration and later to theatre design and window dressing.

Throughout her long career McGuinness balanced her painting with her design work and inevitably each field influenced the other. Living in London during the 1930s, she exhibited with the London Group and the Seven and Five Society, as well as creating fashion illustrations for Vogue and the Bystander. In 1937 she went to New York where she exhibited her paintings, created illustrations for Harper’s Bazaar and designed windows for Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue. Back in Dublin McGuinness was appointed chairperson of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1944, she also represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale of 1950 and she designed windows for Brown Thomas for over thirty years.

Dating from the 1960s Tide Receding, Dublin Bay reveals how McGuinness’ facility at illustration and design influenced her painting. The planes of colour and strong dark outlines in this image, suggest the influence of illustration or theatre sets, and the predominance of brown, black, orange and blue recall contemporary fashion and textile design.

Written by Riann Coulter


About the Artist

Norah McGuinness (1901 - 1980)

Born 1901, Derry, Northern Ireland. Died 1980, Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. Norah McGuinness, painter and illustrator, was born on 7th November 1901 in Lawrence Hill, County Derry. She studied at Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and Chelsea Polytechnic, and spent the 1920s working in Dublin as a stage designer and book illustrator. Books she has illustrated include Laurence Sternes, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1925) and titles by W. B. Yeats. In 1929, after her divorce from editor Geoffrey Phibbs, she moved to Paris to work at André Lhote’s studio. She later moved to London, where she was a member of Lucy Wertheims “Twenties Group” and the avant-garde “London Group”. She lived in New York from 1937 to 1939, then settled in Dublin and concentrated on painting. She was known for her vivid, highly coloured landscapes, influenced by Cubism, as was associated with the Modernist movement in Ireland. She helped to found the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943, becoming its president the following year, and represented Ireland at the 1950 Venice Biennale. She was elected an honorary member of Royal Hibernian Academy in 1957, but later resigned. There was a retrospective of her work in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, in 1968 and in 1973 the College awarded her an honorary doctorate.

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