Catherine McWilliams (b.1940)

Girls on Motorbikes

Oil on board

67cm x 54cm

Private collection

Born in Belfast in 1940, Catherine McWilliams is a visual artist known particularly for her landscapes and studies of the female form. She studied at the Belfast School of Art and began exhibiting her work in 1961. For many years she taught art, she was Head of Foundation Studies in Art at Rupert Stanley College in Belfast until 1990. Together with her husband and fellow artist, Joseph McWilliams, she opened the Cavehill Gallery in 1986. Paintings by McWilliams are held in several public collections including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The National Self Portrait Collection, University of Limerick. This piece, Girls on Motorbikes, was painted by McWilliams in 1973 while she was working as an art teacher at a girls' school in North Belfast. The artist built the painting around a group of girls that she was drawn to as an image at that time. The darkness surrounding the group represents difficulties the girls were experiencing. The yellow-golden lights on the top right of the painting were inspired by the lights of the New Lodge tower blocks. The work was exhibited in the Orchard Gallery in 1973 and was purchased by a barrister who felt the image depicted by McWilliams was reminiscent of a young girl whom he had recently defended in court. The painting stayed with him until his death in 2019, it is now in a private collection.