Portrait of Dublin’s First Female Lord Mayor Kathleen Clarke commissioned

The Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu last week announced that a commission for a portrait of Kathleen Clarke, the first female Lord Mayor of the City, has been awarded to artist Gareth Reid.

The portrait will hang in the prestigious Council chamber of Dublin City Hall, alongside that of previous Lord Mayors, all men, including Daniel O’Connell.

‘I am very conscious of the fact that in more than 350 years I am only the 9th female Lord Mayor of Dublin,’ Hazel Chu said. ‘Kathleen Clarke led the way back in 1939 and I think it’s only fitting that we should honour her in this way. I am really looking forward to seeing what Gareth comes up with.’

A founder member of Cumann na mBan, Kathleen Clarke made history when she was elected as the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin on 27th June 1939.

The first female Lord Mayor of Dublin Kathleen Clarke
Framed photography of Kathleen Clarke first Female Lord Mayor of Dublin 1939 – 1941. By Lafayette Ltd.

She was the daughter of a prominent Fenian family, and her husband Tom Clarke was the first signatory of the 1916 Proclamation. Having served as a TD and a senator, she became a Dublin City councillor in 1930. Elected as Lord Mayor on the casting vote of Alfie Byrne, Mrs Clarke refused to be invested with the Lord Mayor’s Great Chain, or wear the red robes of office.

The commission for the portrait was awarded to Belfast-born Gareth Reid following a limited competition, in which proposals from eight artists were considered by a selection panel made up of councillors, officials, and external experts.

Gareth Reid’s work is held in major galleries in Ireland and the UK, including the National Gallery of Ireland, for whom he painted the broadcaster and author Graham Norton.

‘I’m shocked and delighted to be selected for this commission, not least because I’m told it’s the first Civic portrait to be commissioned for the Dublin City Council Chamber in over 100 years and the first woman to be depicted on its walls,’ said Gareth.

‘I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to paint such an important figure in Irish history. The portrait is long overdue recognition for her role as Lord Mayor of Dublin and her abundant contributions to the country so my hope is that I can deliver something fitting. Many thanks to the selection panel.’

The Lord Mayor thanked all the artists who accepted the invitation to submit proposals, noting that the selection panel’s decision was a difficult one.

It is expected that the portrait will be completed in time for the 50th anniversary of Kathleen Clarke’s death, in September 2022.

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I'm a freelance content creator and a journalist who has a strong desire to do as much as possible in the time I've got left on this planet. I got a taste for storytelling when I interned in Storyful many moons ago and since then have worked for places like WorldIrish (now Irish Central), Her.ie and Lonely Planet. I am constantly curious.

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