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Mary Swanzy was born Dublin in 1882 and is considered to be the first Irish Cubist, preceding Evie Hone and Mainie Jellet. Aged fifteen, she left Ireland to complete her studies in Versailles and later in Freiburg. In pursuing her career as a painter, she took further art and sculpture classes in Dublin where she was taught by Jack B. Yeats. Her initial career was as a traditional portrait artist.

During travels in mainland Europe, her style developed, heavily influenced by Cubism. Paintings produced during her stay in Italy were exhibited in 1914 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, together with a number of a Cubist group, including Robert Delaunay.

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. In ‘Abstract’ she employs the Cubist-Futurist fragmentation of form to create a non-perspective sense of space combined with motion. The interplay of colours with repetition of curves creates a lyrical composition within the interplay of light and shadow.

MediumOil on board
Dimensions40 x 60 cm Framed: 58.5 x 80.5 x 6 cm
Credit LineIMMA Collection: Donation, Maire and Maurice Foley, 2000
Item NumberIMMA.908 FD
Not on view
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Image Caption
Mary Swanzy, Abstract, Oil on board, 40 x 60 cm Framed: 58.5 x 80.5 x 6 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Maire and Maurice Foley, 2000

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: info@imma.ie.

About the Artist

Mary Swanzy 1882–1978

Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) is a unique Irish artist. Her level of achievement, world travel and original thinking is unmatched in Irish art, yet this is the first retrospective of her work in 50 years. She witnessed the birth of Modern art in Paris before the First World War and her work rapidly evolved through the different styles of the day, each of them interpreted and transformed by her in a highly personal way. — View Artist »