Portrait of first female barristers unveiled

26 July 2022

Initiative launched to expand visual representation of female barristers and judges

A portrait of the first female barristers to be called to the Bar in Ireland has been unveiled at The Honorable Society of Kings Inns today.

The portrait, which was commissioned as part of an initiative called In Plain Sight, is by artist Emma Stroude and depicts Frances Kyle B.L. and Averil Deverell B.L. who were called to the Bar in 1921 after the enactment of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.

In Plain Sight is a new joint initiative of The Bar of Ireland and The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, which was established to celebrate the achievements, and enhance the visibility, of women who have demonstrated significant leadership, influence and contribution to legal practise and education.

Before today, only 3 portraits of female barristers hung in the King’s Inns and In Plain Sight is seeking to address that notable under representation through the commissioning of additional portraiture that will hang in the Law Library and The Honourable Society of King’s Inns.  It is intended to be a multiannual initiative.

The portrait revealed today is a double portrait of Frances Kyle B.L. and Averil Deverell B.L. in oil, based on documentary material and research undertaken by the artist in close conjunction with historian Liz Goldthorpe, and Renate Ní Uigin and Mary Griffin of Kings Inns.

Speaking at the unveiling today, Chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, Maura McNally S.C. stated,

“This will be a first of many portraits. As the King’s Inns is the centre for formation and training of barristers, the need for a more representative and contemporary reflection of the profession has been identified so that those passing through have a better understanding of the role that women have played and continue to play at the Bar.

Emma Stroude’s treatment captures the dignity and determined nature of the two barristers, as they take that first step towards making history. 

Hugh Mohan S.C., Chair, The Honorable Society of King’s Inns said,

This initiative continues The Honorable Society of King’s Inns’ investment and commitment to the visual arts, as mode to communicate the heritage of the institution and profession, as well as its contemporary understanding.

That we are only now commissioning a portrait of the first female barristers underscores the work that needs to be done in terms of a more representative portrayal of the profession. I look forward to seeing a continuation of this fantastic initiative in the years to come.

Artist Emma Stroude commented,

“The research I was supported to conduct as part of the In Plain Sight bursary was essential in informing my approach to the portrait because I learned both about the lives of the two women, and also how their achievements impacted so positively on women today.

“I felt a real responsibility to do a good job on their behalf, because when you present an image in this way, that is how a lot of people will remember them.

For Averill and Frances to have their legacy commemorated in this way is wholly deserved and I am honoured to have been commissioned for the portrait.

About In Plain Sight

The In Plain Sight bursary, from The Bar of Ireland, together with the support of The Honorable Society of King’s Inns seeks to appoint an artist, to research and deliver a fitting portrait of a prominent female barrister or member of the Bench.  This is intended to be a multiannual initiative.

A core value of this initiative is that the commissioned portraits, are supported, and championed by all our members, colleagues, collaborators, and stakeholders. As such donations from our respective membership have been sought

The portrait, owned by The Bar of Ireland, will be provided on loan to The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, as well as temporary loans to other institutions, where appropriate; thus, expanding the impact and prominence of our female role models.

For further information or to donate, please visit; https://www.lawlibrary.ie/inplainsight/  

Queries to communications@lawlibrary.ie

About the artist

Artist Emma Stroude was selected as the 2022 In Plain Sight commissioned artist to complete a portrait of Frances Kyle BL and Averil Deverell BL, who were the first women to be called to the Irish Bar in 1921 following the enactment of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.

Emma was chosen following a selection process and in consultation with the Director of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA).

Amongst her various exhibitions both here and abroad, Emma was the 2021 Winner of the Irish Arts Review Ireland-U.S. Council Portraiture Award (pictured). Her work can be viewed at http://emmastroude.com/