The NGJ team is putting the finishing touches on the Edna Manley Galleries, as the second part of a larger project to reinstall the permanent galleries. The new galleries will be open to the public by Saturday, October 24. There will be no special opening function.
The Edna Manley Memorial Collection
The Edna Manley Memorial Collection is a specialized collection of the NGJ dedicated to the life and work of Edna Manley. The Development of the Collection was spearheaded by the late Hon. Aaron Matalon, O.J., the founding Chairman of the Edna Manley Foundation, and Dr. David Boxer, Chief Curator of the NGJ. Various private and corporate collectors of Edna Manley’s work donated major sculptures and drawings. The Collection forms the basis of the Edna Manley Galleries at the NGJ and is supplemented with some works from the core permanent collection of the NGJ and loans from the Edna Manley Estate and private collections.
The following persons, organizations and companies donated works to the Edna Manley Memorial Collection: Wallace Campbell, Paul Chen Young, Contemporary Art Centre, Sonia Jones, Michael Manley, Rachel Manley, Edna Manley Foundation, ICD Group of Companies, Aaron & Marjorie Matalon, Olympia International Art Centre, Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust, Burnett Webster, David Boxer.
Edna Manley was born on March 1, 1900 in Bournemouth, England, the daughter of an English cleric, Harvey Swithenbank and his Jamaican wife, Ellie Shearer. She studied sculpture in London, at the Regent Street Polytechnic and St. Martin’s School of Art. After marrying her Jamaican cousin Norman Manley she moved with him to Jamaica in 1922.
Her early work reflected the current Vorticist and Neo-Classical trends in British sculpture but also revealed in its subject matter a strong identification with Jamaica and its people. Throughout this early period, she exhibited in England where she was admitted to the London Group in 1930.
In the mid 1930s, her work became increasingly political and embodied the emerging Jamaican nationalist, anti-colonial movement, in which Norman and herself were active. She fostered the development of Jamaican art as a teacher, organizer and patron, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Jamaica School of Art in 1950. With the Dying God cycle (1941-1949), her work entered another phase in which she combined private symbolism, inspired by the Jamaican Blue Mountain landscape, with an almost painterly approach to form and surface. Horse of the Morning (1943), which was donated to the collection by Edna Manley’s son and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the late Michael Manley, is arguably the best known work of this cycle.
In the 1950s and 1960s, her political activity and duties as wife of Jamaica’s premier clearly affected her work although she carried out some major commissions. After Norman’s death in 1969, she entered another period of intense activity with the so called Mourning Carvings (1969-1974). She stopped carving in 1974 and stopped sculpting altogether in 1985, turning to painting instead. She continued working until her death on February 10, 1987. The Jamaica School of Art in 1995 became part of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, which was named in her honour.