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Work of the Week | 28 July 2020

CAG.2252 Norah McGuinness, River to the Sea, 1959, oil on canvas, 45 x 60 cm. Presented, 2006 (Great Southern Collection). © the artist’s estate.

Go West with this WORK OF THE WEEK!

Lyrical and luminous, River to the Sea (1959) is a boldly coloured landscape by Derry-born artist Norah McGuinness. A traditional thatched cottage, turf ricks, and rugged coastline set us firmly on the edge of the Atlantic, but the composition appears unusually fragmented.

Almost like shards of a stained-glass window, the artist distils her subject into blocks of blues, greens, yellows, and purples, which are interspersed with finer details of foliage and flowers. A lone fisherman on the right animates the scene, while a strong arc sweeps through the canvas that at once suggests the course of the river, from foreground to background, and the changeable weather of the western seaboard. Is it a beating hot summer’s day, or is change in the air?

In 1929, and at Mainie Jellett’s suggestion, Norah McGuinness (1901-1980) had studied with the Cubist painter André Lhote in Paris. Thirty years later, River to the Sea not only demonstrates the influence of the École de Paris (School of Paris) on her work, but the development of her own recognisable style, comprising of strong compositional choices and confident handling of colour.

Before this painting entered the collection, it resided in the Great Southern Hotel at Parknasilla, County Kerry. It was donated as part of the Great Southern Collection in 2006 when Crawford Art Gallery was designated a National Cultural Institution.

River to the Sea (1959) by Norah McGuinness is featured in our new exhibition, lucid abnormalities (until March 2021) in the Gibson Galleries (Floor 1).

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:

Crawford Art Gallery · WORK OF THE WEEK NO 16 RIVER TO THE SEA By Norah McGuinness

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