Norah McGuinness

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Norah McGuinness
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Norah Allison McGuinness

(1901-11-07)7 November 1901
County Londonderry, Ireland
Died22 November 1980(1980-11-22) (aged 79)
Dublin, Ireland
Alma materMetropolitan School of Art, Chelsea Polytechnic
Known forPainting, Illustration
MovementModern movement

Norah Allison McGuinness [1] (7 November 1901 22 November 1980) was an Irish painter and illustrator.


Early life

Norah McGuinness was born in County Londonderry. She attended life classes at Derry Technical School and from 1921 studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art [2] under Patrick Tuohy ( 1894–1930 ), Oswald Reeves ( 1870–1967 ) and Harry Clarke [3] . Through Clarke she obtained a commission to illustrate Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (London, 1926). She attended the Chelsea Polytechnic in London [2] before spending the 1920s working in Dublin as a book illustrator and stage designer.

She settled in 1925 in Wicklow and was involved in the literary and theatrical life of Dublin, designing for the Abbey and Peacock theatres and illustrating W. B. Yeats’s Stories of Red Hanrahan (London, 1927).

On Mainie Jellett’s advice she went to Paris in 1929 to study with André Lhôte and came under the influence of the Ecole de Paris. [4]

She married the editor Geoffrey Phibbs, but they divorced in 1930 after Phibbs had left her more than once, notably for the poet Laura Riding. [5]

From there she moved to London where she was a member of Lucy Wertheim's 'Twenties Group' and of the avant-garde London Group. [6] From 1937-39 she lived in New York. After New York, she returned to Ireland in 1939, settled in Dublin and concentrated on painting. [7] She died in County Dublin.


Although her work remained figurative, she painted vivid, highly coloured landscapes; her work shows the cubist influence of Lhote and she was associated with the modern movement in Ireland. She helped found the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943 and became its president in 1944 after the death of Mainie Jellett.

With Nano Reid she represented Ireland in the 1950 Venice Biennale. This was the first time Ireland participated in this international exhibition. By 2017, the official list of artists representing Ireland since 1950 showed that the majority of artists chosen in the years since McGuinness and Reid's participation were women. She was elected an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1957, but later resigned. [2]

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. Her work featured in IMMA’s 2013 ‘Analysing Cubism’ exhibition. [8]

Work in collections

  1. "Divorce Court File: 6857. Appellant: Norah Allison Phibbs. Respondent: Jeoffrey Basil..." The National Archives. 1930. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 "Norah McGuinness HRHA". Irish Artist Directory. James Adam & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  3. Pyle, H. (2003). McGuinness, Norah. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 8 Mar. 2018, from
  4. Pyle, H. (2003). McGuinness, Norah. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 8 Mar. 2018, from
  5. Jean Moorcroft Wilson (2018). Robert Graves: From Great War Poet to Good-Bye to All That. Bloomsbury. pp. 352–364. ISBN   9781472929143.
  6. "NORA MCGUINNESS HRHA(1901-1980) - Herman & Wilkinson". Herman & Wilkinson. 25 September 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  7. "Crawford Art Gallery" (PDF). Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  8. "Norah McGuinness | IMMA". IMMA. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  9. "Portrait of Michael Scott (1905-1989)".
  10. "Portrait of Denis Johnston".
  11. "The Startled Bird".

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