‘A woman among the sculptors is a phenomenon which excites wonder and demands investigation’ – women and sculpture in Ireland.
This talk will address the place of women in sculpture in Ireland, exploring the way in which their work was received in the early years of the twentieth century and identifying their new significance in the later years of the century. The ‘woman among the sculptors’ in question in the title of the talk was being described as such in 1942, when it was difficult for women sculptors to get serious critical acclaim in Ireland or to receive significant public commissions there. This was to change dramatically as the century progressed. By the early 1980s, it was the women who were the driving force in implementing change and in instigating exciting developments. New media, new practices, new forms and new approaches to subject matter in sculpture were all introduced in Ireland in the work of the sculptors who were women.
Paula Murphy is an emeritus professor in the School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin. She has published widely on Irish sculpture, including Nineteenth-Century Irish Sculpture, Native Genius Reaffirmed (Yale, 2010) and Sculpture 1600-2000, vol. 3 in the 5-vol. Royal Irish Academy’s Art and Architecture of Ireland (Yale, 2014). She was a recipient of the RHA Gold Medal in 2015. In 2016/17 she held a Senior Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She has served on the Board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and is currently a member of the Steering Group of Dublin City Council’s Sculpture Dublin.