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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
Dimensions Unframed, 40 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
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
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Image Caption
Mary Swanzy, Abstract, Oil on board, Unframed, 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: [email protected].

About the Artist

Mary Swanzy 1882–1978

Mary Swanzy was born in Dublin. She spent periods in Paris before the first World War and from 1920, she travelled through Eastern Europe and the Balkans and then to Hawaii and Samoa. Best known for her Cubist and Futurist paintings, Swanzy exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants and the Beaux Arts. By 1946 she was included in exhibitions with Chagall, William Scott and Henry Moore. The first major retrospective of Swanzy’s work was held in IMMA in 2018.

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We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.

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