Country girl

Phoebe Donovan (1902-1998) Self-portrait (detail) 1940 oil on canvas 41 x 31cm National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, University of Limerick

 

Mary Stratton Ryan outlines the life and work of artist Phoebe Donovan ahead of an exhibition of her works during the Wexford Arts Festival

Wexford artist Phoebe Donovan was a painter and printmaker whose long career spanned most of the 20th century. She enrolled at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1927, regularly cycling the sixty-five-mile journey from her home in Ballymore, Camolin, Co Wexford. At art college, she took painting classes with Seán Keating, thriving under his tuition and passing all stages of her studies with, according to Keating, ‘flying colours’. According to Patricia Butler, ‘The naturalistic observation and empathy he had with his subject remained the touchstone of her own method.’ Donovan recalled that, after her morning classes with Keating, when the school closed for the afternoon, ‘I’d make sure to get locked in so I could keep painting, usually still-lifes. Then I went to evening classes as well.’

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