Belfast Telegraph

An inspiration for Northern Ireland women artists: writer and painter Gladys Maccabe dies aged 99

By Ivan Little

Pioneering and prolific artist Gladys Maccabe has died at the age of 99.

And her son Chris has paid tribute to the influential role she played in his life.

The Randalstown-born woman wasn't just an acclaimed painter, but also a busy journalist and art critic for many newspapers and media outlets.

She was also acknowledged as the inspiration for a raft of female artists to forge careers on the local art scene.

The Ulster Women's Art Society, which she formed in 1957 to give female painters a platform for their talents, has just celebrated its 60th anniversary.

The society has thanked its founder for her vision and passion.

Gladys' own promise as an artist was first spotted as a 16-year-old when she had a piece published in the Royal Drawing Society's magazine.

She went on to study at the Belfast College of Art, where older artists recognised her skills.

One of Belfast's most famous painters, William Conor, sat for her and the portrait now hangs in the Ulster Museum.

In the 1960s and 1970s she wrote on art and fashion for the Irish News and Irish Independent.

She also worked for the News Letter, BBC Northern Ireland and the Ulster Tatler.

She was married for 59 years to artist, musician and writer Max Maccabe, who died in 2000.

Chris, a prominent civil servant in Northern Ireland who has also worked in conflict resolution around the world, paid a moving personal tribute to his mother yesterday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said she was the biggest influence on his life and career.

He added: "She really was a wonderful woman.

"She was a passionate believer in fairness and equality and respect for people.

"They were the values she instilled in me throughout all my life.

"And she and my father both saw the world as a wider place, in which people came first."

He said his mother encouraged him to adopt a "go-for-it attitude" to life.

He added that she was intensely proud of her National Union of Journalists membership card, and wrote on more topics than just art.

Chris said: "I even used to drive her round the nightclubs in the Sixties for her to write about them and she was the arts editor for the Ulster Tatler for years."

Her own art has found a permanent home in many national and international collections, from the Arts Council of Ireland to the Imperial War Museum in London.

In 1980 Gladys was awarded an Honorary MA by Queen's University Belfast, and in 2000 she received an MBE from the Queen.

She was an Honorary Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy and an Honorary Senior Member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Her work was usually associated with her view of gatherings of people at race meetings, fairs, markets and the like.

But in 1969 she also depicted scenes from the Troubles, in paintings with titles including Funeral Of A Victim, Barricades and Petrol Bomb Sequel.

Her funeral will take place at Roselawn Crematorium next Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph

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