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Royal Hospital Kilmainham
Dublin 8, D08 FW31, Ireland
Phone +353 1 6129900

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Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) is a unique Irish artist. Her level of achievement, world travel and original thinking is unmatched in Irish art. Born in the late Victorian era, by her early twenties Swanzy had mastered the academic style of painting. 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.

In 1920, against the background of violence of the Irish War of Independence, she left Ireland in a form of self-imposed exile. Traveling first through Eastern Europe and the Balkans, she then sailed to Hawaii and Samoa from 1923 to 24 – literally crossing the globe. While there she produced a body of work that is unique in an Irish context with images that show her proto-feminism and critique of the colonial system. Best known for her Cubist and Futurist paintings, after 1914 she exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants and the Beaux Arts, alongside artists who are now household names. By 1946 she was included in exhibitions with Chagall, William Scott and Henry Moore but after this time her work fell into obscurity. This may in part have been due to her status as a female artist and indeed she was vocal on issues of gender, remarking:

“if I had been born Henry instead of Mary my life would have been very different”.

This IMMA initiated exhibition aims to reintroduce our audiences to this artist’s extraordinary achievements and reinstate her as a Modern Irish Master.

The exhibition will tour to Crawford Art Gallery, Cork from 15 March – 3 June 2019 and Limerick City Gallery of Art from 20 June – 15 September 2019.

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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Exhibition Curator Sean Kissane introduces the exhibition

Additional Resources 


Additional Resources

Take IMMA home

Catalogue Mary Swanzy
€35.00 IMMA are delighted to present this fully illustrated monograph on Mary Swanzy. It includes text by exhibition Curator Seán Kissane and a biography by artist and researcher Liz Cullinane. View Product
Books The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland
from the 1900s to the 1970s
€70.00 Irish artists and writers have played a fascinating role in the story of modernism. This 596 page book traces this story by bringing together exceptional works of Irish significance. View Product
Books Patrick Hennessy
De Profundis
€39.00 Patrick Hennessy RHA (1915-80), was one of Ireland's most successful realist painters in the post-war period. This publication sheds light on this critically neglected artist. View Product
Catalogue Analysing Cubism €25.00 Analysing Cubism explores the early decades of Cubism and features the work of such celebrated Cubist artists as Albert Gleizes, Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett. This fully-illustrated catalogue accompanied the landmark 2013 IMMA exhibition. View Product


Important Notice


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.