Forgotten Faces of Art:
The Women of the Honan Chapel

Virginia Teehan, Director of Cultural Projects at UCC pictured in the Honan Chapel, UC., Cork. (Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
June / July 2016

The stories of the extraordinary Irish women behind the design of the textiles at the Honan Chapel in Cork city and their contribution to Ireland’s arts and crafts movement have been largely ignored, according to Virginia Teehan, Director of Cultural Projects at University College Cork.

“Like many of their generation, the stories of the women who created these wonderful artworks were often swept aside and their contributions to artists’ practice was sometimes completely ignored, or at best diminished,” she says.

Many of these women worked in studios like the Dun Emer Guild, the first collective for female artists, founded by Evelyn Gleeson and the Yeats sisters Lilly and Lolly in Dundrum, Co. Dublin in 1902.

The Dun Emer Guild made many of the large textiles commissioned for the Honan Chapel, while in Cork city, the firm Michael Barry Egan on Patrick Street made a number of the Honan vestments.

“The women’s pride in their work is evident from the fact that they embroidered their names on the artworks. These inscriptions are a fragile testimony to the creativity and skill of the artists,” Teehan says.

Conceived at the height of the Irish Revival and consecrated in 1916, the Honan Chapel is one of the finest examples of 20th century Irish design. A number of items from the Honan Chapel Collection of artworks are currently on display at The Arts and Crafts Movement: Making it Irish, a major U.S. exhibition at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. ♦


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