Mrs. D'Olier, Amateur

(b. 1829, d. 1887)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Helen Campbell Lawson was born in Edinburgh in 1829, the daughter of James Lawson, w.s. She married, in 1849, John Rutherford D'Olier, of Dublin, barrister, and took up her residence in Dublin. She had received some instruction in drawing and painting from William Simson, R.S.A., and did many copies of pictures and some original landscapes in oil; but it is by her work in reproducing the ancient Irish illuminated manuscripts, to which she devoted many years, that she will be remembered. She made a particular study of the "Book of Kells," and in the manuscript-room of Trinity College worked patiently and assiduously in making copies of its pages. These she did in body-colour on vellum, and she reproduced with extraordinary exactness and fidelity of drawing and colouring the intricate and beautiful designs and illuminated letters of that book. Many of these copies are in Trinity College, others are in possession of her son, Mr. Isaac D'Olier of Herbert House, Booterstown.

She wrote an illustrated Memoir upon the "Book of Kells," which has not been published, and she devoted much study in investigating the nature of the pigments used by the old Irish illuminators. The only colour she was unable to account for or reproduce was the yellow, which in the "Book of Kells" has remained entirely fresh and unfaded.* In her reproductions, the yellow which she used is the only colour which has not lasted. Some of her copies were reproduced in a Lecture on the "Book of Kells," given by Professor J. D. Westwood at Oxford in November, 1886, and published by Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 1887. Mrs. D'Olier also did some good unpublished lithographs. Some of them, as well as pencil-drawings and pictures, were in the Dublin Exhibition of 1861, and she exhibited her copies from the "Book of Kells" in 1872. She died on the 29th June, 1887.

*See Paper upon the colouring matters used in the "Book of Kells," read to the Dublin Society on 15th June, 1885, by Professor W. N. Hartley.

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