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Work of the Week | 10 August 2020

CAG.846 May Guinness, Portrait Study, c.1930, oil on canvas, 59 x 39 cm. Presented, Miss Merrick Lloyd, 1957. © the artist’s estate.

It’s time for a ‘Guinness’ with this WORK OF THE WEEK! May Guinness, that is.

Not only does Portrait Study (c.1930) reveal May Guinness’ artistic influences but it also suggests her later collecting habits. Slightly downcast in a brown felt hat, the subject of this study is pensive and appears to be a thoroughly modern woman, much like the artist was herself.

Descended from brewer Arthur Guinness, May Guinness (1863-1955) was also a nurse and was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1917 for her brave service in the French army during the Battle of Verdun (1916).

Although less experimental than some of her other works, this painting combines a Fauvist handling of colour and free brushwork with some of the spatial and formal aspects of Cubism. Both modernist art movements would have a pronounced effect on Guinness, who had begun to pursue her artistry in the 1890s as a watercolourist.

Extensively travelled throughout her life, Guinness spent time in Paris in the early twentieth century, where she encountered the work of Henri Matisse. Having studied with Norman Garstin at Newlyn, alongside Mildred Anne Butler, she would later work with Andre Lhote, as did fellow Irish artists Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, and Norah McGuinness. She also collected paintings by Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Portrait Study (c.1930) by May Guinness is featured in lucid abnormalities, our current exhibition in the historic Gibson Galleries (Floor 1). Free entry and open daily.

Tune in to The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:


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