Sarah Cecilia Harrison

Artist, Social Campaigner and City Councillor

Margarita Cappock

Catalogue Price: €22.95
ISBN: 978-1-8384635-1-9
Catalogue Price: €27.95
ISBN: 978-1-8384635-0-2

February 2022. 266pp. Ills. Full Colour.

“Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863-1941) was a compelling woman who broke new ground – as an artist, an activist, a suffragist and as the first woman to be elected as a city councillor for Dublin in 1912 ... she earned herself a reputation as one of Ireland’s leading portraitists and her work was realistic and meticulous, and thus highly praised by fellow artists and in contemporary press reports ... Although she painted from life, her posthumous portraits, most notably of Michael Collins (1924-25) (OPW Collection) and Francis Sheehy Skeffingon (1916) (Hugh Lane Gallery) are well known. Both were painted from photographs and memory. Harrison gifted the portrait of Sheehy Skeffington to his widow, Hannah, and the Collins portrait was gifted to the State in 1925, where it hangs in the office of the Taoiseach to this day ... The range of activities in which she was engaged was quite remarkable. For over three decades, Harrison was a champion of the poor, unemployed and marginalised citizens in Dublin who frequently visited her at home. She was vocal in her criticism of any complacency on the part of the authorities to improve the working and living conditions of the working classes … Harrison died on July 23rd, 1941 at the age of 78. Her tombstone in Mount Jerome cemetery reads “Artist and Friend of the Poor” – a succinct epitaph for a woman who achieved so much in her life.” The Irish Times, February 2022

“Sarah Cecilia Harrison was not only a political figure in Dublin city, she was a remarkable painter, who painted a portrait of George Moore, which proudly hung in his apartment in Ebury Street. It was Moore’s trilogy Hail and Farewell which gave imaginative shape to the literary revival in a way no other writer, not even Yeats and Joyce, did or could. Miss Harrison, perhaps because of the spread of her activities has been successfully ‘unpersoned’ as they used to say in Stalin’s Russia by others with far less talent or humanity. Now at last there appears a book on her as an artist, activist and social reformer, Ulster-born, English-trained, Dublin-based, and it is most welcome … the present book is a revelation which ought to be widely appreciated by anyone at all interested in the Irish cultural revival.” Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic

“Though Harrison’s portraits included many great men her name has never been as well-known as theirs, but this new book, in full colour with essays on Harrison’s art and activism should, deservedly, rectify that now. ” Niall MacMonagle, The Irish Independent

“Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863-1941) was one of Dublin’s finest portrait painters but she also immersed herself in the political and social fabric of Dublin life, becoming the first female elected as a Dublin City Councillor in 1912 ... This publication, generously illustrated with paintings by Harrison, will restore and champion Harrison’s rightful position in the history of Dublin”. Michael Merrigan, Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette

"A fascinating read, it delves into numerous facets of Harrison’s life and acknowledges her many achievements as activist and councillor. Aside from being a rewarding read, I’d also highly recommend the book for the bounty of beautiful images of the artist’s work throughout. There was momentous change in Ireland during Harrison’s lifetime. The campaign for home rule in Ireland. The push for the rights for women. The improvement of workers’ entitlements. Sarah Cecilia Harrison was a significant player in all … Sarah Cecilia’s Harrison’s initials can be found on portraits in the Royal Academy, the Royal Hibernian Academy and even the office of the taoiseach in Government Buildings ... This body of work is more than mere proof of a truly gifted artist. It serves as a reminder of an exceptional woman who has done so much for the city of Dublin." Daniel Seery, Dublin InQuirer, 20 April 2022

“Sarah Cecilia Harrison was a remarkable woman who had been neglected for many years. In this first full length book on her life and work there is a feeling that Harrison is at last getting the full recognition that she deserves … This lavishly illustrated book gives due regard to the various aspects of her life, both artistic and political. Indeed the second part of the book is a comprehensive catalogue of her artistic output, the bulk of which are portraits, including of such people as Sir Hugh Lane, George Moore and Francis Sheehy Skeffington … Her fight for the establishment of what became known as the Hugh Lane Gallery makes fascination reading. Her crowning achievement as the first woman sitting in City Hall is covered … This book, edited by Margarita Cappock, manages to balance both aspects of Harrison’s life in a skilful way. No better or more accomplished tribute to the life and work of this pioneering woman could be hoped for”. The Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 75. 2022

Sarah Cecilia Harrison: Artist, Social Campaigner and City Councillor is a wonderful study of yet another one of those outstanding women who have been allowed to almost evaporate from history ... she juggled a career as a successful portrait artist with that of a political campaigner and social activist. This handsome book includes a catalogue of her work, much of which you will be familiar even though you didn’t know whose it was.” Joe Culley, History Ireland, September/October 2022