Grace Evelyn Gifford
Grace Evelyn Gifford (1888–1955) was an Irish cartoonist, caricaturist, illustrator, and political activist. She published her cartoons in popular periodicals such as ‘Irish Life’, ‘Irish Fun’, ‘The Shanachie’, and ‘The Irish Review’. The latter was edited by the revolutionary Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887–1916) whom Gifford married in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Gifford converted to Catholicism and became increasingly active in the Irish Republican movement. She was elected to the Sinn Féin executive in 1917 and she also joined the Irishwomen’s Franchise League, working alongside Constance Markievicz (1868 -1927). Gifford’s political interests influenced her artworks, which often reflected and promoted Sinn Féin policies and featured in nationalist ephemera.
A New Commission
Gifford earned income from commissions and portraits also, as is indicated in this handwritten letter that she penned from 33 Westmoreland Street, Dublin. She writes that ‘Mr Holloway has asked me to do a sketch of you’. Mr Holloway is likely the theatre critic and art collector, Joseph Holloway (1861–1944), who commissioned numerous drawings and cartoons by Gifford. The proposed sitter here maybe the writer and artist AE, George Russell, (1867–1935).
Gifford writes that she will only require a sitting of a ‘brief - ten minutes at most’ as she does ‘not know [his] appearance well enough to do it from memory’. She signs the letter in both Irish and English language, referring to herself as ‘Mrs Joseph Plunkett’, in reference to her late husband. Gifford remained an active presence in Irish art until her death in 1955. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, close to the republican plot and her husband.
Donna Rose, ESB CSIA Fellow
Published online: 2022