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The five artworks were commissioned in 2015 through an open competition, and completed in 2016.

Vera Klute was the chosen artist to complete the individual portraits of the first four female Members of the Academy, who were elected in 1949, and were pioneers in their respective fields which included: mathematical physics, Irish art history, plant viruses and classical Irish literature.

The fifth artwork is a group portrait of eight female scientists, who were recipients of the European Research Council Starter Grants (2012–2015) and were chosen as representatives of a generation of outstanding contemporary young female scientists working in Ireland. Blaise Smith was the chosen artist who worked with the eight women to produce the portrait.

This pioneering Women on Walls campaign has since extended to other leading academic institutions including the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (2018) and Dublin City University (2020).

You cannot be what you cannot see

Learn about the campaign with Accenture

Five of the painted Women on Walls portraits displayed on a white wall, with a graphic stating #WomenOnWalls in black, to the left

The first female Members of the Academy

A collage of four painted portraits of female academics
Subjects from top, left to right: Phyllis Clinch MRIA, Sheila Tinney MRIA, Eleanor Knott MRIA, Françoise Henry MRIA

Phyllis Clinch (1901–1984)
Award winning scientist Phyllis Clinch, was one of the greatest female inventors of her generation and world renowned for her innovative research into plant viruses.

Sheila Tinney (1918–2010)
A pioneering academic in mathematical physics, Sheila Tinney was described by Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger as ‘among the best equipped and most successful of the younger generation of physicists in this country’.

Eleanor Knott (1886-1975)
Eleanor Knott was a “pathbreaking” researcher of classical Irish literature. Having taught herself to read modern Irish, she went on to study old Irish at the School of Irish Learning in Dublin and won a scholarship to continue her studies in 1907.

Françoise Henry (1902–1982)
Françoise Henry was one of the most important twentieth-century historians of Irish art. She trained at the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne, establishing herself as an expert on very early forms of sculptural decoration, particularly in Early Christian Irish Art.

Each of the women have strong personalities and also very distinct features, which makes this project artistically interesting for me. It is a challenge to create a good likeness from very limited photographic material, but I hope that I can do justice to each of these extraordinary academic and scientific leaders.

Artist Vera Klute

Eight contemporary female scientists

Painted portrait depicting 8 female scientists standing in a row looking at viewer, against a backdrop of a large glass window
Subjects left to right: Professor Sarah McCormack (TCD), Professor Aoife McLysaght (TCD), Dr Aoife Gowen (UCD), Professor Lydia Lynch (TCD), Professor Debra Laefer (UCD), Professor Emma Teeling (UCD), Dr Maria McNamara (UCC) and Professor Caitríona Lally (TCD). Portrait by Blaise Smith.

Professor Sarah McCormack (Trinity College Dublin)
Professor McCormack’s research explores photovoltaic panels which convert solar energy into direct current electricity.

Professor Aoife McLysaght (Trinity College Dublin)
Professor McLysaght is one of Ireland’s leading geneticists and was on the team that analysed the initial sequence of the human genome in 2001. She was also involved in a major discovery about how genes are formed.

Dr Aoife Gowen (University College Dublin)
Dr Gowen investigates how contact with water contributes to fouling or degradation of various synthetic materials, including medical sutures, pacemakers and water filters.

Professor Lydia Lynch (Harvard Medical School moving to Trinity College Dublin)
Professor Lynch’s research has found that a type of anti-tumour immune cell protects against obesity and the metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes.

Professor Debra Laefer (University College Dublin)
Professor Laefer’s research aims to prevent damage to buildings above tunnel excavation, by developing a 3D modelling system that can predict what buildings are most likely to sustain damage during tunnelling.

Professor Emma Teeling (University College Dublin)
Professor Teeling is a world authority on bat genetics. She studies bats for insights into human diseases such as blindness and deafness as well as aging.

Dr Maria McNamara (University College Cork)
Dr McNamara is a world expert on the fossilization of colour in animals and has conducted ground-breaking work on the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs.

Professor Caitríona Lally (Trinity College Dublin)
Professor Lally is the principal investigator on a project focusing on developing a means of early diagnosis of degenerative cardiovascular diseases. These studies are highly relevant to stroke patients and those with vascular disease.

A group portrait is always interesting because you have to capture the individuals and their personalities but also make the painting of the group work.

The fact that they are all eminent women scientists provides an opportunity to mark the positive change that has happened in society over the last hundred years. It really is a landmark painting about our life and times, a painting which I confidently expect to last at least 500 years and as the painter chosen to do it, I feel privileged to be given this responsibility.

Artist Blaise Smith