Mary Swanzy, one of Ireland’s leading modernist painters

Artist achieved success in her lifetime only to be relatively forgotten in death

Mary Swanzy got to know the work of Picasso from viewing his paintings at soirees organised by Gertrude Stein in Paris.

Mary Swanzy got to know the work of Picasso from viewing his paintings at soirees organised by Gertrude Stein in Paris.

“To be an artist… you have to be very severe with your amount of energy… To have an overriding hobby, that’s the secret. Mine was an overriding hobby, I couldn’t get rid of it.”

These are the words of Irish artist Mary Swanzy, one of Ireland’s leading modernist painters. She achieved success in her lifetime, only to be relatively forgotten in death. A current retrospective at IMMA, paired with the above quotation from interviews replayed recently on John Bowman’s RTÉ One programme, have done something to reclaim her deserved reputation. Her self-professed dislike of fuss, a legacy of her Victorian upbringing, perhaps contributed to her being overlooked. But listening back to interviews with her what is clear is her passion for her work, and her incisive, philosophical approach to life.

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