FE McWilliam

Ireland’s most important twentieth century sculptor

FE McWilliam (1909 – 1992) was born in Banbridge, Co Down. He was educated at Campbell College, Belfast and joined the Belfast School of Art in 1926. In 1928 he went to the Slade School of Art in London.

McWilliam’s Women of Belfast series (1972-73) was one of the first dramatic deployments of the body in recent Irish art.

McWilliams saw the sculptural possibilities of turning women as blast victims into a series of surreal ‘balletic’ forms, in which the power of the bomb to violate is caught in a figurative transformation. In these works, the face is covered by clothes, the emotional charge therefore made more corporal.

The artist taught at the Slade School for 22 years. Many of his sculptures were commissioned for public places including a large work for the Festival of Britain Exhibition (1951) at the South Bank Centre, London and Princess Macha for the Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry (1957). In 1981 the Arts Council staged a touring exhibition of his work throughout Ireland and in 1989 the Tate Gallery in London held a major retrospective of his work.