Celebrated, controversial, talented, a national icon. All or any of these would describe one of Ireland’s foremost ladies of literature, Edna O’Brien. Recently, to celebrate her 90th birthday, a diptych portrait by photographer Mandy O’Neill was unveiled at the National Gallery of Ireland.
The commission, by the 2018 Zurich Portrait Prize winner O’Neill, has been added to the national portrait collection and is a most worthy inclusion. O’Neill’s commission followed her success in the competition with the evocative Diane, Larkin Community College.
Mandy O’Neill is an Irish visual artist working primarily in the fields of photography, installation and text. Her practice draws on themes of youth, community and institutions, and she has a particular interest in the dynamics between people and place. Over the past decade she has worked within educational and community settings, and in particular with children and young people in formal education settings in central Dublin.
O’Neill’s has exhibited widely, nationally and internationally, and her work is highly prized and is in many important private and public collections. Currently she is artist in residence at Dublin City University where she has begun a PhD.
Sadly, due to present protocols and restrictions, O’Brien was unable to attend the unveiling which occurred on her birthday
One of Ireland’s most acclaimed writers, Edna O’Brien has penned over 20 works of fiction since her debut novel The Country Girls. She has also written numerous short story collections, plays and works of non-fiction. O’Brien is the recipient of many awards, including the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award in 2020 for her latest novel, the harrowing yet tender Girl. Born in Tuamgraney, Co Clare, she has lived in London for many years.
I am delighted to have a place on the walls of the National Gallery of Ireland
Sadly, due to present protocols and restrictions, O’Brien was unable to attend the unveiling which occurred on her birthday. She was nonetheless thrilled with the work, and commented: “I am delighted to have a place on the walls of the National Gallery of Ireland and will have my first viewing when I next come home, which I hope will be soon. With thanks to everyone, including of course Mandy O’Neill.”
Admission to the National Gallery of Ireland is free and this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize exhibitions run until March 2021. If you manage to get to Dublin and visit there is also a wealth of other European and Irish art to see, dating from about 1300 to the present day.
For those who are unable to visit the National Gallery of Ireland there are many ways to engage with the national collection online. The National Gallery at Home includes videos, Works of the Day, Mindfulness and Art, and at-home activities. Virtual tours of the Shaw Room and the Grand Gallery, as well as the exhibition Murillo: The Prodigal Son Restored, can also be explored from home. Find out more at www.nationalgallery.ie