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IMMA presents first major retrospective of groundbreaking artist Hilary Heron in over 60 years

Hilary-Heron, sitting with Crazy Jane-III-circa-1958.-Photo-courtesy-Hilary Heron-Estate.

IMMA presents Hilary Heron: A Retrospective, an exhibition of some 60 works celebrating the pioneering work of modernist sculptor Hilary Heron (1923 – 1977) opening on Friday 24 May 2024. As the first major retrospective exhibition of Heron’s work since 1964, this exhibition seeks to correct the ways that her work has been overlooked in Irish and international histories of modern sculpture.

Hilary Heron was a Dublin born sculptor who co-represented Ireland at the 1956 Venice Biennale alongside painter Louis le Brocquy (1916 – 2012). The exhibition brings together work from national and international collections, including carvings, welding and castings. Heron was a master welder, a practice highly unusual for an Irish artist, let alone a woman in the 1950s. Her work tactfully and skilfully broaches themes of gender, relationships, deep histories and religion through impressive, varied mediums including stone, lead, steel and wood.

Commenting on the exhibition, Seán Kissane, Curator, Exhibitions, IMMA, said: “This exhibition aims to bring Heron’s work back into public focus, and to publish a monograph with images and commentary on her work making it available to future audiences. Although Heron carved out a successful career for herself during her lifetime, problems of historiography and how the art market values the work of women less than that of men, meant that her work fell into obscurity after her death.”

Highlights from the exhibition include those works shown at the Venice Biennale each loosely on the theme of birds and the human body. Of these, Virgo (1950) is the most life-like rendition of the body, unlike each of the other sculptures which propose highly exaggerated features, like the Idol (1951) whose neck has been stretched and whose hair forms two shoulder-like appendages; or the Stiff Necked Woman (undated) whose body has been exaggerated almost to the point of abstraction.

Presented alongside Heron’s work is a display of works titled Redux: Contemporary Irish sculptors at Venice. This display features the work of Siobhán Hapaska, Eva Rothschild, and Niamh O’Malley, all female sculptors who represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2001, 2019, and 2022 respectively. Redux, meaning revival, signals Heron’s enduring influence on contemporary Irish sculpture and her legacy in proximity to contemporary sculptural practice, making her influence visible for the first time.

A symposium on the work of Hilary Heron, presented in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin The Long Room Hub and FE Mc William Gallery, takes place on Thursday 23 May at TCD. This one-day gathering brings together a milieu of voices to reflect and speculate on Heron’s overlooked legacy. Speakers include Penelope Curtis, Fionna Barber, Riann Coulter, Billy Shortall, Mary Kelly, Barbara Knezevic, Niamh O’Malley, and others.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by IMMA, with texts by Riann Coulter, Seán Kissane, Sara Damaris Muthi, Billy Shortall, and Eva Rothschild.

Hilary Heron: A Retrospective is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and the Doyle Collection.

15 April 2024

– ENDS –

For further information and images please contact:  Monica Cullinane E: [email protected] T: 086 2010023 Patrice Molloy E: [email protected] T: 086 2009957

Additional notes for Editors

Hilary Heron: A Retrospective 24 May – 28 October 2024 Admission Free

Open: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am – 5.30pm.

Wednesday: 11.30am – 5.30pm. Sunday: 12noon – 5.30pm.

Webpage: Hilary Heron: A Retrospective


The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by IMMA, with texts by Riann Coulter, Seán Kissane, Sara Damaris Muthi, Billy Shortall, and Eva Rothschild. Price €20.00.

Exhibition Tour

This exhibition is curated by Seán Kissane, Curator, IMMA, in collaboration with Riann Coulter, Curator, FE Mc William Gallery & Studio. The exhibition will tour to the FE Mc William Gallery & Studio, Banbridge from 15 November 2024 to 15 February 2025.

Redux: Contemporary Irish sculptors at Venice is curated by Sara Damaris Muthi, Curatorial Fellow, Exhibitions, IMMA.

IMMA Talks – Hilary Heron Series


Hilary Heron, Ireland’s Most Promising Sculptor

Thursday 23 May 2024, 10.30am – 4.30pm Offsite Trinity College Dublin – Long Room Hub

Ticketed – ticket link

Why was an extraordinary woman sculptor left in the shadows of Modern Art history? On Thurs 23 May 2024 from 10:30 – 16:30; IMMA & TCD Long Room Hub presents a symposium to coincide with the forthcoming IMMA exhibition, Hilary Heron: A Retrospective that celebrates the revolutionary work of modernist sculptor Hilary Heron (1923 – 1977). This one-day gathering brings together a milieu of voices to reflect and speculate on Heron’s overlooked legacy, in anticipation of the exhibition of Heron’s work in Ireland at IMMA.

Invited speakers include: Keynote – Penelope Curtis (author, historian, former director of Henry Moore Institute, Tate Britain, and Gulbenkian Museum, UK); Fionna Barber (Reader in Art History, Manchester School of Art, UK); Riann Coulter (art historian, curator, FE Mc William Gallery); Billy Shortall (art historian, leading Hilary Heron scholar, TCD); Mary Kelly (Programme Director, MA in Global Gallery Studies, UCC); Seán Kissane (curator, Exhibitions, IMMA); Barbara Knezevic (artist, lecturer); Sara Damaris Muthi (curatorial fellow, IMMA); Niamh O’Malley (artist) and others.

This symposium follows in the IMMA Modern Masters Series that offers a critical reappraisal of the work and ideas of lesser-known artists. The symposium is followed by the exhibition launch and preview of Hilary Heron: A Retrospective at IMMA. Refreshments are available to all event attendees on the day. See full details here

Curators Talk Series – Free & Drop In

Hilary Heron: A Retrospective with Seán Kissane

Sun 30 June 2024, 2 – 3pm, Meeting Point, IMMA Garden Galleries

Seán Kissane (Curator, Exhibitions, IMMA) gives and in-gallery introduction on a selection of works that comprise the exhibition, Hilary Heron: A Retrospective.

Admission free.

Redux: Contemporary Irish sculptors at Venice with Sara Damaris Muthi Sun 18 August 2024, 2 – 3pm, Meeting Point, IMMA Garden Galleries

Sara Damaris Muthi (Curatorial Fellow, IMMA) gives an in-gallery introduction to Redux: Contemporary Irish sculptors at Venice.

Admission free.

About the artist

Hilary Heron was born in Dublin in 1923, the same period which saw the establishment of the Irish Free State. Heron studied sculpture at the National College of Art, where she won the prestigious Taylor Art Scholarship Prize three years running in 1944, 1945 and 1946. With her Mainie Jellett travel scholarship, Heron bought a motorbike and travelled throughout Europe and to Paris, where her contact was Samuel Beckett. She was represented by Ireland’s most important commercial gallery, the Waddington Galleries, who presented her first solo exhibition in 1950. Heron’s international visibility as Ireland’s foremost modern sculptor was reinforced when she was selected to represent Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1956 alongside Louis le Brocquy. Heron’s key influences include the environment and art circles of Post War Paris, Existentialism, Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Elizabeth Frink, and Leslie Waddington, amongst others.

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.