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 Patrick Swift  (1927 - 1983)

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Lived/Active: Ireland/Portugal      Known for: portrait, figure, tree, land-and cityscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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Patrick Swift (1927-1983)

A figurative painter, he also painted portraits, rural and urban landscapes, and trees, which held a special fascination for him.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, he was a painter in Dublin and London before moving to the Algarve in Southern Portugal.

A self-taught artist, he did attend night classes at the National College of Art in 1946 (under Sean Keating) and later set up his studio on Hatch Street.  Swift was part of the McDaid's pub circle of artistic and literary figures that included Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Brendan Behan, and others.  He first exhibited in group shows at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1950 & 1951.  In 1952 he held his first solo exhibition at Waddington Galleries to great critical acclaim. Critic Tony Gray wrote in the Irish Times: "Paddy's 30 canvases are as gray and gloomy as Dublin itself—harshly realistic paintings of dead birds and rabbits, frightened-looking girls and twisted potted plants. Their fascination is in the merciless, sharply etched details, as oppressive and inquiring as a back-room third degree. Dublin Understands..."

In 1954, he was awarded a grant by the Irish Cultural Relations Committee to study in Italy, where he painted and wrote essays on art.

In 1958 Swift spent time at the Ashwell Springs in the village of Ashwell in North Hertfordshire under the Digswell Arts Trust and painted many views of the surroundings.

In 1959, he moved his young family to London, where he became a member of the Soho set that included Francis Bacon, George Barker, Elizabeth Smart, among others. There he founded and co-edited - with the poet David Wright – the magazine ‘X’ which promoted many artists of that period including Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Craigie Atchison and David Bomberg.  His painting style gradually changed to a more expressionist mode in heavy brushstrokes, rather than in sharp lines and a thin paint surface.  Known portraits by Swift during this period include those of George Barker, Patrick Kavanagh, David Wright and David Gascoyne.

In 1962, Swift left London for an extended trip to southern Europe and fell in love with a small fishing village on the Algarve in Portugal.  He stayed, and continued painting while also writing books on Portugal and founding (with the Portuguese artist Lima de Freitas) Porches Pottery, reviving what had been a dying industry.  He produced many tile panels and portraits on plates.  He also developed a technique of carving wet cement to produce reliefs with intricate patters, shapes and figures.

During his career Swift only held two solo exhibitions; Dublin in 1952 and Lisbon in 1974.  His work has never been exhibited in Britain and though his first exhibition at the Waddington Gallery in 1952 was highly acclaimed, he appears to have had very little interest in showing his work.  By his death in 1983 Swift had been forgotten by the art world.  Most thought that he had stopped painting a long time ago.

In 1993 the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) held a retrospective of Swifts work. The exhibition received great critical acclaim, with fellow artists such as Derek Hill (Irish Times, 24 January 1994) declaring Swift to be “probably the most formidable Irish artist of this century”.

Patrick Swift died in Portugal and is buried in the town of Porches.

Solo Exhibitions:
2005 Office of Public Works Atrium, Dublin . Paintings, drawings and watercolours by Patrick Swift.
2002 An Irish painter in Portugal retrospective, Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork .
1993 Patrick Swift 1927-83, Retrospective, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin .
1974 Pinturas de Patrick Swift, Galeria S Mamede, Lisbon
1965 Desenhos do Algarve , Diário de Notícias Gallery, Lisbon .
1952 Paintings by Patrick Swift, Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin

Group Exhibitions:
Contemporary Arts Society, Whitechapel Gallery, London 1961
Comtemporary Irish Art, National Library of Wales , Aberystwth, 1953
Irish Exhibition of Living Art ( 1951, 52, 54)

Public Collections:
Irish Museum of Modern Art. Permanent collection: Self-Portrait in the Studio; Forget-me- Knots on a cane table.
National Portrait Gallery (London): Patrick Joseph Kavanagh, lithograph, 1956 NPG D9523
National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, Limerick University: Self-Portrait, C.1950, ink on paper.
Dublin Writers Museum. Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh. Black crayon.

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