Beatrice Campbell, Lady Glenavy, R.H.A.
signed with monogram l.r. and dated in the central tree: 1931; also inscribed on a label attached to the reverse: 'The Intruder Beatrice Elvery (Lady Glenavy) Clonard Kimmage Road Terenure Dublin'
oil on canvas
71 by 96.5cm., 28 by 38in.
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Acquired directly from the artist by Professor Fearon and thence by decent;
Their sale, Christie's, London, 9 May 1996, lot 84, where purchased by the present owners


Dublin, Aonach Tailteann Exhibition of Irish Art, 1932, no.133;
Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, 1932, no.37;
London, Royal Academy, 1933, no.12;
Dublin, Dublin Painters' Society Gallery, Solo Exhibition, 1935;
Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, April-July 1953, no.21;
Dublin, Waddington Gallery, Solo Exhibition, 1955;
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, Irish Women Artists from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, 1987, no.112, with tour to Trinity College, Douglas Hyde Gallery and Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art;
Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Irish Art & Modernism 1880-1950, 20 September - 10 November 1991, no.115, with tour to Ulster Museum, Belfast;
Pont Aven, Brittany, Musee de Beaux Arts, June - September 1999;
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, 2003-2010 (on loan from the Calihan Collection)


‘Fine Work of Irish Artists. Exhibits of the Academy’, Irish Independent, 11 April 1932, p.9;
‘Our London Letter. Academy Pictures’, Irish Independent, 29 April 1933, p.8;
H.F.E. ‘Around the R.A. (1933)’, Punch, 10 May 1933, p.514;
Lady Glenavy, Today we will only gossip, London, 1964, p.148 and illustrated pl.148;
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, Irish Women Artists from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, 1987, no.112, illustrated pl.19 and p.133;
S. B. Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism 1920-1949, 1987, Vol.2, pl.169;
S. B. Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism 1880-1950, 1991, p.56, 184, illustrated no.115, p.329;
Nicola Gordon Bowe, 'The Art of Beatrice Elvery, Lady Glenavy', in Irish Arts Review, 1995, pp.168-175, illustrated p.169;
Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists, 20th Century, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1996, p.143;
Anne Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, Ireland's Painters 1600-1940, New Haven & London, 2002, p.286;
Fionna Barber, Art in Ireland since 1910, London, 2013, pp.78-79, illustrated pl.66


Painted in 1931 and exhibited in Dublin a year later The Intruder is widely believed to be Lady Glenavy’s masterpiece. Although never belonging to a public collection it was exhibited extensively during Glenavy’s own lifetime and subsequently after her death in 1970. It depicts an Arcadian forest scene in which a buxom centaur entices a Nijinsky-like, flame-haired, young aesthete, in eighteenth century dress of loose chemise, red pantaloons, stockings and pumps, to leave a party of young women with whom he is picnicking. In the background, and foreground, the central drama is echoed by groups of amorous young couples who are disturbed from their various activities. The dense forest is envisioned as a sort-of dream-state, its grasses, river and hills rendered in deep emerald, bright ultramarine and fiery crimson. Drawing on Glenavy’s interest in modern theatre the scene seems to re-imagine the Rococo fête galante through the prism of Post-Impressionist colour. It is unlike anything painted in the highly conservative years of the Irish Free State (1922-39). When it was first displayed in Dublin and London the Irish press and public were puzzled by Glenavy’s ‘sylvan and classical painting of a fanciful nature’ (Irish Independent, 29 April 1933, p. 8) finding it ‘rather novel, with its strange whimsical figures’ (Irish Independent, 11 April 1932, p. 9). Its most obvious comparatives are Rex Whistler’s celebrated murals in the Tate Gallery restaurant or the ‘amusing style’ of Bloomsbury painters such as Dora Carrington.  

In her published memoir Glenavy tried to account for the contemporary hostility to the painting: ‘It portrayed an imaginary woodland scene with people having a picnic; a female centaur has galloped through the wood and beckons to a young man in the picnic party who is leaping madly forward to follow her. The picture was hung in the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition – I had just been made a member of the Academy. Richard Orpen, who was already an Academician, was very keen that my picture should be bought by the Haverty Trust, which was like the Chantry Bequest in Burlington House. Unfortunately, some of the members of the committee considered that it was ‘obscene’, so they did not buy it. My meaning, if any, had been that the unknown was more interesting than the known. Next year I sent the picture to the Royal Academy, where it was hung on the line, got good notices, and was caricatured by George Morrow in Punch under the title ‘The Home Wrecker’’ (Glenavy, 1964, p.148). More recent critics have followed Glenavy’s reading of the painting as ‘a sort of Thessalian allegory of desire’ which is both surreal and subversive (Kennedy, 1991, p.184; Bowe, 1995, p.169; Crookshank and Glin, 2002, p.286; Barber, 2013, pp.78-79).

Born into a cultured, well-healed Dublin family Beatrice Glenavy (née Elvery) was one of several important women artists who helped modernise early twentieth century Irish art. Her mother, her mother’s family (notably the Edinburgh-based Phoebe Traquair) and her sisters were all artistically gifted. From an early age she showed precocious talent. Entering the Dublin Metropolitan school of Art in 1896 aged just 13, where she struck up a life-long friendship with the school’s ‘star’ pupil William Orpen, she then went onto to study in London and Paris. She studied sculpture, painting, decorated furniture, drew illustrations (including biting caricature), designing everything from small, exquisite domestic stained glass panels to metalwork to book covers, working prodigiously and winning prizes everywhere she studied or exhibited. She won the Taylor competition at the Royal Dublin Society over four consecutive years eliciting disbelief from the judges that all the work was by her own hand. Aside from her painting she is best known for the work she did at Sarah Purser’s An Túr Gloine stained glass co-operative and for Elizabeth Yeats at the Cuala Press. 

Feted in Dublin for her extraordinary physical beauty, especially her long red hair, she was sculpted by her Dublin art school contemporary Oliver Sheppard as ‘Roisin Dubh’ for the memorial to the poet James Clarence Magnan on St. Stephen’s Green (1909). She was painted by her friend William Orpen as a symbol of Ireland’s rebirth in the early twentieth century, as a Colleen (1908) and as Bridget (1909). In 1912 she married the barrister Gordon Campbell and moved to London. Here, she quickly became associated with Bloomsbury circles and the writers D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield and S.S. Koteliansky. She and her husband returned to Ireland and settled in Dublin after the war. In the 1920s she turned to painting exclusively. Of all her work The Intruder remains exceptional and formed the central focus in her two major solo exhibitions, in 1935 at the St. Stephen’s Green Galleries, and in 1955 at the Victor Waddington Galleries, South Anne Street, Dublin. It is unquestionably a major work.

Dr. Joseph McBrinn