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Portrait of novelist Edna O’Brien to be installed in Irish Embassy in London

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Edna O'Brien with her portrait by Colin Davidson

Edna O'Brien with her portrait by Colin Davidson

Edna O'Brien with her portrait by Colin Davidson

A portrait of the Irish novelist Edna O’Brien is set to be installed in the Irish Embassy in London later this year.

Northern Irish artist Colin Davidson was the creator behind the work of art, and spoke about what this work meant to him.

“Last night I fulfilled a lifelong ambition and unveiled my new portrait of Edna O’Brien at Claridges in London,” he said.

“Edna is one of the most courageous and remarkable Irish women. Her writing has helped shape modern Ireland. What a privilege.

“The portrait will be installed at the Irish Embassy in London later this year. So appropriate.”

The painting was purchased by the Irish State and was formally unveiled at an event in London last night attended by Ms O’Brien, Mr Davidson, and Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK Adrian O’Neill.

While Ms O’Brien is originally from Co Clare, she moved to London back in 1958 and she continues to live there to this day. She would begin her life as an author there, publishing her first novel - The Country Girls - two years later in 1960.

Due to the fact the book discussed many sexual matters and social issues, it was actually banned in Ireland upon its release, and was similarly criticised by the Catholic church.

Speaking in the Guardian about it last year, she said that her mother: “was very ashamed of my books and made more ashamed by people in the village, and that barrier was always there.”

“President Michael D Higgins, a marvellous sincere person, spoke of the intentional malice that had been meted out to me and why. My books are not hateful of Ireland [but] I was told by [Irish author] Rosita Sweetman that what offends people is my honesty. I have always tried to be truthful in everything I write.”

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Back in March of this year, Ms O’Brien was honoured with France’s highest cultural distinction - an Ordre des Arts et Lettres - by France’s minister of culture during an online ceremony for International Women’s Day.

Now 90 years old, Ms O’Brien has written over 20 novels, and posed for this portrait back in September of last year.


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