Davidson, Lilian Lucy (‘Ulick Burke’; ‘Jennifer Maude’) (1879–1954), landscape and portrait artist, art teacher, and writer, was born 26 January 1879 at Castle Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, the sixth of ten children of Edward Ellice Davidson, a clerk of petty session, and Lucy Rising Davidson (née Doe). She was educated privately, before attending the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (1895–1905), where she won prizes in 1895 and 1896. In 1897 she obtained a scholarship and free studentship from the RDS. She was commissioned to draw costumes for Switzer's department store on Grafton St. in 1899. Her painting ‘After rain’ was exhibited at the Dublin Sketching Club in 1909, where she continued to exhibit until 1920. While living at 13 Gulistan Terrace, Rathmines, in 1912, she first exhibited ‘The bonfire’ at the Water Colour Society of Ireland; she continued to exhibit at the society until 1954, becoming a committee member in 1934. Her entries at the sale of paintings to assist Belgian refugees (1914) confirmed that she had spent time in the south of England and in Wales. At her first exhibition at the RHA (1914) she showed ‘The student’. Her painting of ‘The harbour, St Ives’, exhibited at the RHA in 1916, suggested the influence of Stanhope Forbes (qv) and the Newlyn school; the bright palette and contrasts of illumination in this painting were characteristic of her technique. She provided illustrations to A zoovenir (1919), by C. H. Bretherton, a collection of humorous poems and recollections about animals contained in London zoo.
In 1920 she held a joint exhibition with Mainie Jellett (qv) at Mill's Hall, Merrion Row, Dublin. Jellett executed a pencil portrait of Davidson, depicting her in a straw hat that she always wore. Davidson's oil painting ‘The flax pullers’, a portrayal of a rural Co. Tyrone scene shown at the RHA in 1921, indicated the stylistic influence of Paul Henry (qv) and aspects of French impressionism in its colour-block technique. One of her works, ‘Fish market, Bruges’, was probably executed after her travels to the continent in the early 1920s, when she visited Switzerland, Belgium, and France. In the late 1920s she lived for a time in Paris, where her work was shown at the Salon de la Societé Nationale in 1924 and 1930. She inserted her self-portrait in the foreground of ‘The country races’, a painting depicting a peasant gathering.
She taught drawing at her studio at 1 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, where her pupils included Beatrice Orpen (qv) and Anne Butler Yeats (qv). She also taught at various Dublin schools, including Belgrave school, Rathmines; Wesley college, St Stephen's Green; and Castle Park school, Dalkey; one day every week she travelled to Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, to give lessons at Glenbawn boarding school. Her drawings of Leinster House and Christ Church cathedral were reproduced by Bulmer Hobson (qv) in A book of Dublin (1929). The landscape ‘Low tide, Wicklow’ was shown at the RHA in 1934, while her skill at handling reflections in water was evident in ‘Boats at Wicklow, dusk’. Her paintings of rural life, such as ‘Cottages – Keel, Achill’, exhibited at the RHA in 1938, revealed the influence of Jack B. Yeats (qv) in their manipulation of space and colour. Her work was exhibited at the loan and cross-section exhibition of contemporary painting at the Contemporary Picture Galleries, Dublin (1930), alongside that of such artists as Yeats, Evie Hone (qv), and Harry Kernoff (qv). A member (1941–2) of the Picture Hire Club, 24 Molesworth St., Dublin, Davidson was a regular contributor to the Munster Fine Arts Club. Her 1938 portrait of Yeats is in the NGI, as is her crayon drawing of Sarah Purser (qv); she regularly attended the ‘second Tuesdays’, gatherings of artists at Purser's Dublin home. Her portrait of Joseph Holloway (qv) is in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Davidson exhibited at the Salon des Beaux Arts, Paris; the Royal Academy, London; in Chicago; and in Amsterdam. Many of her paintings of the 1930s depicted the Claddagh, the Irish-speaking district of Galway city; her emphatic oil painting, ‘Night in Claddagh’, was shown at the RHA in 1933. Some of her Irish landscapes, including ‘Claddagh cottages’, featured in the oireachtas art exhibitions (1932–46).
Davidson wrote plays, short stories, and monologues under the pseudonym ‘Ulick Burke’; a collection of her poems, Donegal rhymes, was published in 1927. Her stage play ‘Bride’, a tragic piece set in the west of Ireland, was performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, directed by Hilton Edwards (qv) (1931). A short story, ‘Her only son’, appeared under the pseudonym in The Bell (1942). A founder-member in 1935 of the Torch Theatre, 114 Capel St., Dublin, where she designed scenery, she was appointed its co-director in 1936 with Hugh Hyland, using the stage name ‘Jennifer Maude’. She was a member (from c.1934) of the Society of Dublin Painters, with whom she exhibited (1939–54), helping to shape its avant-garde direction of the 1940s. Elected an associate of the RHA in 1940, whereafter she customarily appended ‘ARHA’ to her signature, she continued to exhibit at the academy until her death. She died unmarried on 29 March 1954 at 4 Wilton Terrace, Dublin, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Mt Jerome cemetery. She bequeathed a large self-portrait, ‘The golden shawl’, to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin.