Artist biography

English painter. She took evening classes in life drawing, before studying Fine Art at the University of Durham (1956–62). She then taught at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (where she met Richard Hamilton, whom she later married), the University of Reading, the Slade School of Fine Art, London and Goldsmiths College, London. Mindful of her Irish Ancestry, from the mid 1960s she dealt in her art with the turbulent political situation in Northern Ireland. Maps, specifically those of Northern Ireland that show the six counties of Ulster created by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, became recurring motifs in her paintings, used as a basis on which to explore both political and symbolic representation; cartographic methods of geometric projection are often employed in her work. Hamilton's influence became apparent in her use of collage and oil paint in her works of the 1970s. Early in the following decade she began to deal with more specific elements of Northern Irish culture. In the early 1990s she returned to the human figure with the self-portrait Slade (oil on canvas, 1.52×2.28 m, 1994; artist's priv. col., see 1994 exh. cat., p. 31). She continued her political engagement with Downing Street Declaration, 15 Dec, 1993 (laser prints and gouache on acrylic sheet, 1994; priv. col., see 1994 exh. cat., p. 32).. Like much of her previous art, this work focuses on the way such events are mediated in the press and consumed in the public sphere.

Bibliography
Rita Donagh: Paintings and Drawings (exh. cat., ed. M. Regan; Manchester, U. Manchester, Whitworth A.G., 1977)
Rita Donagh 197419841994: Paintings and Drawings (exh. cat., essay S. Maharaj, Manchester, Cornerhouse, 1994)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD
10 December 2000

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