Irish artist Camille Souter dies aged 93

Work of Achill-based visual artist and Aosdána saoi spanned seven decades

The Irish visual artist Camille Souter, who painted abstract works with what has been described as a “statuesque elegance” over a period spanning seven decades, has died at the age of 93.

Souter was born in England but her family moved to Ireland when she was a child. She spent her formative years in Co Dublin before returning to England after secondary school to train to become a nurse at Guy’s Hospital London.

A career in medicine was derailed by illness, and she turned instead to art in the mid-1950s after which she returned to Ireland and eventually made her home on Achill Island in Co Mayo. She lived there for most of her life.

According to the Arts Council, her work was “characterised by both an interest in ordinary, unexceptional things and a tendency to paint in series” in which “flying, medical memories, the Gulf War, meat and the circus appear as recurring themes”.


From her early paintings, which veered towards the abstract, to more representational figurative work, “Souter’s interest in the everyday, the things she encountered on her journey through life was a constant,” the Arts Council said in a statement released on Friday.

She exhibited extensively from the 1960s, with major retrospectives of her work held at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 1980 and at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, in 2000, the same year that she received the Imma Glen Dimplex award for contribution to visual arts in Ireland.

In more recent times she produced two limited-edition giclée prints; one as part of the Imma Editions series and another, The Late Night Show, from her circus series.

Her work is held in, among other places, the collections of the Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery, the Ulster Museum in Belfast, the Crawford Municipal Gallery in Cork and the Limerick City Gallery of Art.

Among the awards she won was the Landscape Award at the Oireachtas Exhibition in 1973, the Gainey Award with Patrick Collins in 1975, the Prix de Ville de Monaco 1977 and first prize at the Claremorris Exhibition in 1978.

Souter was an honorary member of the RHA and a member of Aosdána. She was elected saoi of Aosdána in 2008, when she was presented with the symbol of the office of saoi, the gold Torc.

The chairman of the Arts Council Kevin Rafter said he had been “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of Souter, whom he described as “one of Ireland’s most enduring painters”.

“From early abstract expressionist pieces to more impressionistic figurative works, she sought to capture the raw, unfiltered beauty that she saw in everyday places and commonplace things with a singularly tenacious resolve,” Mr Rafter said.

“Her paintings were never solely ‘beautiful’ in a traditional sense, but she did not want them to be. Instead they are robust, challenging, imbued with a ‘statuesque elegance’ all her own.”

In a statement he said her output had been “absolutely unique in the context of Irish art, and I am certain that her legacy will continue to inspire artists and audiences alike for generations to come”.

Maureen Kennelly, director of the Arts Council and registrar of Aosdána, hailed the artist’s “extraordinary body of work over the course of almost seventy years, much of it on her beloved Achill Island”.

She pointed to Souter’s “profound contribution to the visual arts in Ireland [which] cannot be underestimated. Her election to Saoi of Aosdána was a well-deserved honour and we are grateful for her work. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very sad time. She will be deeply missed.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast