Mary Swanzy

1882Dublin, Ireland | 1978London, United Kingdom

Irish painter.

The daughter of a surgeon, Mary Swanzy first studied art at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art under the direction of Mary Manning, who encouraged her to move to Paris to further her education. Starting in 1906, the young Irishwoman took classes from high society painter Antonio de La Gandara, and attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Académie Colarossi. However, her early output still followed a very traditional path when she returned to Dublin in 1908. The influence of cubism started to become visible, in 1914, in the first works she submitted to the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, although her inspirations at the time were more likely to be André Lhote and Albert Gleizes’ late cubism, and to a greater extent Robert Delaunay’s orphism. She then turned to landscape painting. Her marine and harbour scenes from the late 1910s and early 20s show two influences: while some are clearly inspired by Paul Cézanne – whose significance she was most likely the first Irish artist to have understood – others show the importance of R. Delaunay’s work. She spent the following years travelling, which provided her with many sources of inspiration, yet her style still remained faithful to the School of Paris. However, her palette grew darker throughout the 1930s and World War II, during which period her works became infused with a symbolic dimension. Her later period was more serene.

She remained faithful to early 20th-century French modernism, with paintings of lovers and circus themes similar to those of Marc Chagall and a delicate treatment of colours reminiscent in some cases of that of Marie Laurencin or of Raoul Dufy’s vivid palette. The seductive power of her pictures remained intact throughout and beyond her lifetime, guaranteeing the success of her first major retrospective exhibition in Dublin in 1968

Marie Gispert

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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