New exhibition shines a light on one of Northern Ireland's most overlooked artists

The striking early 20th century works of Newry-born Margaret Clarke will be brought to all-new audiences at F.E. McWilliam Gallery this month

A major, cross-border collaboration between the F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio, Banbridge, and the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, will bring the works of talented County Down artist Margaret Clarke to audiences in Northern Ireland for the first time this month.

Margaret Clarke: An Independent Spirit, which opens at the award-winning gallery on Saturday September 16, will bring a spotlight to the ambitious and striking works of this acclaimed member of Ireland’s artistic establishment.

Known for her strong and distinctive style, Clarke was in high demand as a portrait painter in the early 20th century and depicted many high-profile figures including prominent Irish statesman and former president Éamon de Valera.

Born in Newry in 1884, Clarke worked her way up from night classes at the local technical college to winning a scholarship in 1907 to study at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where she was a favourite pupil of celebrated painter William Orpen.

The exhibition, and accompanying illustrated catalogue, also explore the challenges Clarke faced as an artist and how she negotiated being in the artistic shadow of her famous husband, the renowned stained glass artist, Harry Clarke.

Showcasing the development of Clarke’s style, from her arrival in Dublin to the period following the early death of her husband, the exhibition includes paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and archival material relating to her career including her time as a founding member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. Margaret Clarke died in 1961.

Margaret Clarke 2

F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio Curator, Dr Riann Coulter, said: 'It is a real delight and honour to be working with the National Gallery of Ireland to welcome this fabulous new exhibition that showcases the remarkable works of Margaret Clarke. Born in County Down, Clarke’s success as one of Ireland’s most talented artists can now be fully appreciated close to where her journey began.

'In bringing this ground-breaking exhibition to the F.E. McWilliam Gallery we hope to introduce new audiences to this remarkable artist and create an excellent visitor experience for both locals and tourists.'

Supported by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Margaret Clarke: An Independent Spirit runs until 18 November.

Among the works in the show are 'Harry Clarke on Inis Oírr', 1914 (Private Collection); 'Miserere', 1926 (Private Collection); 'The Wife /The Haircut' c.1926/7 (Irish News Collection, Belfast); (Newry & Mourne Museum Collection); 'Bathtime at the Crèche', c.1925 (National Gallery of Ireland) and 'Mary Magdalen', 1927 (Private Collection).

For further information, contact F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio on 028 4062 3322 Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm or email info@femcwilliam.com. Details on all activities and exhibitions can be found at www.femcwilliam.com or www.facebook.com/femcwilliamgallery.