|Biography from Papillon Gallery:|
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Mary Swanzy was born Dublin Ireland in1882. She is considered to
be the first Irish Cubist, preceding Evie Hone and Mainie Jellet
although she has not achieving much recognition outside Ireland.
suffered from frail health as a child, but lived to age
ninety-six. She came from a distinguished professional family,
which for the most part, nurtured her artistic efforts. Her
father, Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy, an ophthalmic surgeon was the
vice-president of the College of Surgeons. By the age of fifteen,
she had drawn, painted, and attended art classes for several years.
At age fifteen, she left Ireland to complete her studies at the Lycée
in Versailles and later in Freiburg, Germany. Upon leaving these
schools, Mary Swanzy pursued her career as a painter.
She took further art classes in Dublin and was greatly encouraged by an
instructor whose work she admired, the painter John B. Yeats. She
also studied sculpting at the Metropolitan School of Art in
Dublin. Pursuant to her father’s wish that she specialize in
portraiture, and following the example of Sarah Purser, another
contemporary artist whose work she respected, she produced portrait
upon portrait. Swanzy had a portrait accepted for exhibition by the
Royal Hibernain Academy in 1905.
Seeking constantly to expand
her scope, Swanzy once again left for Paris to study, this time with
Delacluse, who had a studio for women. Then in her mid-twenties,
she was a disciplined student who drew and painted all-day and attended
sketching classes at night.
In 1906, she attended classes at the studio of the portrait painter, De
La Grandara, at La Grand Chaumiére and at Colarossi’s atelier.
She arrived in Paris when the cubist style was developing. She
visited Gertrude Stein’s salon, where she saw recent works by Picasso,
Braque, Matisse, Derain, Laurencin, Cézanne, and Gauguin.
struggling to establish herself, she returned to Dublin. Compared
with Paris, the artistic milieu at home seemed to her quite
conservative; modern art seemed not to have any impact. To
support herself, she worked as an illustrator. In 1913, she had
her first solo exhibition at Mill’s Hall, Dublin.
gained financial independence after she inherited much of her parents’
estate. Desirous of a change in atmosphere, she left for
Italy. Paintings produced during her stay in Italy were exhibited
in 1914 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, together with those of
a Cubist group and of Delauney, whose Orphic-Cubist Homage to Blériot influenced her development.
Judging from a photo of Mary Swanzy taken during her stay in France after World War I, her Woman with a White Bonnet
is very likely a self-portrait. None of her paintings are dated,
so it is impossible to establish an exact chronology. But it
seems certain that Swanzy executed this painting only after her
exposure to the Italian Futurists and to the work of Delaunay.
She employs the Cubist-Futurist fragmentation of form to create a
non-perspective sense of space combined with motion. The
interplay of colors with repetition of curves creates a lyrical
composition within the interplay of light and shadow.
continued to exhibit her paintings, and in 1916 at the 21st Exhibition
of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers at the
Grosvenor Gallery in London. In 1918, following the end of the
war, she exhibited again at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris.
She became a committee member of the Salon in 1920.
Swanzy traveled to Czechoslovakia, Hawaii, Samoa, and California,
producing a body of work at each location. In 1926, she settled
in Blackheath, south London, where she lived for the rest of her
life. A one-woman show of her work was held at the Dublin
painter’s Gallery in 1943. She then participated in an important
group show, which included the works of Braque, Vlaminck, and Dufy at
St. Georges’s Gallery, London, in 1946. This exhibition was
followed by a solo show at the same gallery the year after. In
1968, when she was eighty-six, a major Mary Swanzy retrospective was
mounted by the municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. In
1982, the same city hosted a centenary exhibition for her.
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