During my first visit to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, way back in 2009, one of the works that caught my eye was this painting by Camille Souter
Old Wheel Gate Entrance to Estate (1967)
Since then I’ve kept an eye open for her work and was pleased to see that there was a room devoted to her in the IMMA as part of their current exhibition IMMA Collection: Fragments.
Camille Souter was born Betty Holmes in Northampton in 1929. Her family moved to Ireland when she was a child and she has lived there for most of her life. She trained as a nurse in London but took up art soon after. She never went to art college and is self taught. She took the name Souter from her first husband, although the marriage didn’t last long, and Camille was his nickname for her.
Most of her paintings that I’ve seen are figurative but leaning heavily towards the abstract. And her palate is earthy, but not muddy, with splashes of white and bright colours.
A Toucheen of Snow (1964)
Shannon Series Painting (1980)
The works on display at the IMMA included some earlier paintings from the time early in her career when she lived in Italy in the late 1950’s. They were more colourful and more abstract than the mature paintings.
Short of money, she used inexpensive materials. In these two abstract works from 1956 (both untitled) she’s used aluminium bicycle paint on newspaper and craft paper.
The newspaper print can be seen in this picture of the right hand painting .
This painting is also from her time in Italy
She’s something of an eccentric character, living on the rather secluded Achill Island off the coast of County Mayo in the West of Ireland. According to this profile of her
She is rarely to be seen at art events and casual callers are not encouraged at her Dooagh retreat. A sign outside her studio says “Working – Private”.
She learned to fly when she was producing a series of paintings at Shannon airport but, now in her 80’s (and still working) she has given that up.
I haven’t seen any of her works over in the UK. The only ones shown on the BBC’s excellent Your Paintings website are from Northern Ireland. The IMMA has a modest collection of her works which can be seen on their website. Others can be seen here.