Portraits of Femininity: Eva O’Donovan

Often using vintage floral fabrics as her canvas, the Irish artist highlights feminine fragility and strength in every beautiful and compelling brushstroke
portrait of the Irish artist Eva O'Donovan, wearing black and carrying a colorful, floral fabric shoulder bag
Artist Eva O’Donovan

Eva O’Donovan’s portraits in oil are at once modern and timeless. Drawn toward strong silhouettes, the artist finds inspiration in fashion magazines from the past 20 years. Her subjects are usually taken from behind-the-scenes shoots at fashion shows, and the poses are often reminiscent of fashion editorials.

Eva explains her process: “Through a delicate and purposeful building of layers, the figure begins to reveal itself. The subject and often-floral background form a synchronicity where each element is given equal prominence. I often paint on floral backgrounds because the patterns I choose are an immediate indication of femininity. I have been lucky to source a number of fabrics printed in France, such as designs by Balenciaga from 1950s and Jacques Fath from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s.”

Painting by Irish artist Eva O’Donovan
“Florrie” (sold; oil on Designers Guild fabric) by Eva O’Donovan
Painting by Irish artist Eva O’Donovan
“Bubblegum Girl” (sold; oil on fabric)

In recent work, Eva addressed femininity and equality by collaborating with the Transgender Equality Network Ireland and presented a series of 14 powerful artworks promoting positive visibility for this community in Ireland today. “I worked closely with the participants featured in the paintings and spent time getting to know each of the women and people, which was key in this project.”  The exhibition, titled Chrysalis, was presented in Dublin’s city hall and is currently touring.

While no longer living in the wild Irish countryside where she grew up, the artist still draws inspiration from her Dublin garden. “It’s a modest garden that is filled with peony, David Austin–variety roses, hydrangea, and blankets of ‘Rozanne’ geranium brimming over linear granite borders and a central lawn.” Sounds like a lovely spot to dream of the women she wants to paint next, highlighting their fragility and strength in every beautiful and compelling brushstroke. evaodonovan.com

This story appears in the Scene column of Flower magazine’s Jan/Feb 2021 issue. Subscribe to the magazine or sign up for our free e-newsletter.

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