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Joan Jameson & Norah McGuinness - Two Painters In Ardmore

The Ardmore Journal

3. Joan Jameson & Norah McGuinness - Two Painters In Ardmore

Ardmore has been a back-ground for the work of two remarkable and deservedly acclaimed painters, Joan Jameson and Norah McGuinness. Joan Jameson, a Musgrave of Tourin, knew Ardmore from childhood, and in her later years was a resident, owner of Rock House.
Norah McGuinness, whose work has touched world fame, was one of Joan's greatest friends - understandably, remembering that no artist of any stature lived or worked in West Waterford - Those were the days when the Impressionist School found little favour with the admirers of Lionel Edwards, or the more informed public of Paul Henry.
Norah often stayed at Rock House. Working with immediate perception of all that Ardmore showed her, she filled note books with charcoal, pencil and water colour sketches; no passing cloud or sun-hot rock went unnoticed; these records formed the basis for some of her best paintings. She worked with delight and energy, seeing the bones of her picture develop. An early riser, she was out every Summer morning for a swim off the Boatcove. Hardly out of the water and dry before her eye had seen and retained some angle of a gull's flight or the structural perfection of a pile of lobster pots.
Joan's working method was different. Never an early riser, she would wander unwillingly through the garden to her studio, stopping on her way to consider some present planting, or some planting to be, her eye was always right. Combined with her husband - Tommy Jameson's – manual labour and knowledge, their garden was a shared interest and, to their friends, an endless delight.

Arrived at her studio, nearly hidden by fuchsia and hydrangea, she would sigh a little and grow a little pale as she sorted out her paint brushes and looked almost with dislike at the canvas on its easel. Before starting to paint she was nearly ready to welcome any interruption, whether from her adored children or her, rather frightening, giant dachshund --- "Hansy, come in --- Hansy, do you want to go out? --- What does Hansy want?" --- But, once she had conquered such impediments to concentration, her strength was indefeatable - she painted cautiously. Her brush seemed to be pushing its way as it followed her eye into the canvas.

In her method and manner of working Joan seems the direct opposite of Norah, who noticed so much and threw away so much of it - Their paintings were as different as the backgrounds of their lives - Norah fought her way into painting - In her young days she lived on a very sparse income, though always with grace and distinction. Joan found her way into painting against the time-consuming social life in which she was born and brought up - The figures that peopled her canvas, sometimes too bluntly and directly for ignorant eyes, were fishermen and their families, with their boats and their nets - As models she often used her husband and her son, Julian - These pictures contained all the grandeur, delights and sorrows of the changing sea, and those who seek their living on it - Late in her life she painted a small crowd walking towards the church, a couple of worshipers are engulfed in the doorway - a woman's figure, like a small ghost, watches them distantly. She seems to accept, perhaps with wonder, perhaps with envy, a tradition that she does not share.
Joan was happiest when she was dealing cards. She liked the feel of cards in her hands - Poker was her game - Her still, small face disclosing nothing. She would put down a Full House, Aces' High as quietly as she would a pair of threes if her gamble was defeated.

When I was young we played at Rock House, a small game suited to our age or our lean finances. The game succeeded a wonderful tea, created by Agnes Power, whose never-failing genius was behind the hospitality of Rock House. After tea we would settle to the cards as though thousands were at stake. Joan played quite as seriously as we did.
The real game began later - on many a night Joan and Tommy would go down to the Cliff House Hotel to meet their friends, dear Frank and Nally Nugent - and it was at Cliff House that the school assembled. Play might go on quite far into the night; even if Father Power had an early mass to celebrate, Paddy Spratt an important auction to conduct, or Joan a picture on a dead-line for some exhibition. Whatever the hour, in the morning all three would fulfill their appointed duties. When Joan died, far too young, magic fell from the air - and when Norah died, Ireland lost one of her most important and delightful painters.

Ardmore is still blessed with two artists - or should they be called superb craftswomen? - At Rock House Patricia Cockburn labours very successfully at turning sea shells into flower pictures; and at Star Cottage, Mary Lincoln's potter's wheel has some delightful pieces to its credit - Their true and unfantasticated shapes have a simple dignity and usefulness.

Author: Siobhán Lincoln

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