The Composition – A Portrait of Marian Keyesis an oil painting by artist Margaret Corcoran, unveiled on February 9.
Born in Limerick, Ms Keyes was raised in Cork, Galway and Dublin. She graduated from UCD with a law degree before moving to London in 1986 and published her first novel Watermelon in 1995.
She has since published 15 novels in 37 languages.
An award-winning author and seller of more than 30 million books worldwide, she said it was “a surprise and a huge honour” to be invited by the National Gallery to sit down for a portrait.
“Margaret Corcoran and I met and the personal connection was immediate: she’s very warm and wears her talent lightly. We also discovered we’re almost exactly the same age. And I love her work, there’s a playfulness there and a great humanity,” Ms Keyes said.
She said Ms Corcoran “very generously discussed her ideas” for the portrait but she did not want to influence the artist.
“As a result, I tried to take personal vanity out of it. The portrait was not about how I saw myself but how Margaret Corcoran, the artist, did. If she decided to go the full Francis Bacon, then so be it,” she said.
“However, I was bowled over by the finished portrait: I love it; the colours, the textures, the mood, the many tiny details. I don’t have the language to analyse art but it feels as if she’s captured me.
“The playfulness that she’s so great at is definitely there. I’m absolutely delighted and incredibly proud of this beautiful honour. May I offer heartfelt gratitude to everyone who made this possible.”
Ms Corcoran was born in Dublin and studied fine art at the National College of Art and Design and the Chelsea School of Art, London.
Her work is described as “intricate and richly-coloured” and has been inspired by art, feminist theory and the history of political thought.
“I portrayed Marian in the house where she has written many of her books. The walls in her house were yellow, though the yellow in my painting refers to The Song Rehearsal, painted by Edgar Degas in 1873,” Ms Corcoran said.
“I associate Marian with a vibrant colour palette – both in personality and in her own style and decor.
“It was my aim to paint not only a portrait but an image that spoke to the fondness of her readers both nationally and globally.”
Director of the National Gallery of Ireland Dr Caroline Campbell said it was “very exciting” to have a portrait of Ms Keyes added to the collection.
“The origins of our national portrait collection date back to 1875. It is regularly being enhanced by commissioned portraits of prominent figures from contemporary Irish life and is a source of joy and fascination for our Irish and international visitors.
“We know that this new work by Irish artist Margaret Corcoran will be a draw for our audiences young and old.”