Evie Hone (1894–1955)

Evie Hone 2The Irish Cubist painter and stained glass artist Evie Hone was born in Dublin. One of the earliest abstract painters in the history of Irish art, she was the great-great-great granddaughter of Joseph Hone, a brother of the portrait painter Nathaniel Hone the Elder RA (1718-1784) and father of two other portraitists Horace Hone (1756-1825) and John Camillus Hone (1759-1836). Struck by infantile paralysis, Evie suffered from lameness the rest of her life.

After studying drawing and painting at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London, Evie Hone continued her studies at the Westminster School of Art under Walter Sickert (1860-1942), where she met her lifelong friend and fellow artist Mainie Jellett (1897-1944).

From London, the pair continued studying in France, first under Andre Lhote, then under Albert Gleizes, the great Cubist theorist. At this time, Evie Hone concerned herself with portraits, landscapes and (increasingly) abstract pictures.

Returning home, Hone and Jellett held a joint exhibition at the Dublin Painters Gallery, largely featuring their new and highly abstract art. The critics were not impressed with the non-representational qualities of the paintings displayed, and were baffled by their abstraction.

After a short break, Evie Hone continued studying with Gleizes. Both she and Jellett joined the Abstraction-Creation group of artists, who specialized in geometric abstraction – or, concrete art – and had their paintings published in the group’s Parisian magazine. Both Irish artists then submitted their paintings to the Salon d’Automne, the Salon des Surindependants and the Salon des Independants. Evie also submitted to the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI) and during the years 1930-1945 had more than 40 works displayed. Of these, roughly 15 were for stained glass.

Evie HoneFrom hereon, Evie’s main artistic preoccupation was with stained glass art. She first joined Sarah Purser’s studio – the stained glass co-operative An Túr Gloine – before setting up a studio of her own in Rathfarnham and becoming influenced by the great Harry Clarke.

Over the next twenty years, she undertook a number of commissions and left an impressive legacy of artwork in this genre. Evie Hone’s most important works are the Crucifixion and Last Supper windows at Eton Chapel, Windsor (1949-1952) and “My Four Green Fields”, now located in Government Buildings.

Evie Hone was a founder member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (IELA). In 1958, University College Dublin staged a memorial exhibition of her Irish painting, drawing and stained glass designs, which attracted a record attendance. In 2005-6, the National Gallery of Ireland held an exhibition of her works.

The auction record for a work by Evie Hone was set in 2005, when one of her stained glass masterpieces – entitled, Stations of the Cross, for Kiltullagh Church, County Galway – was sold at Whyte’s, in Dublin, for €42,000.

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Norah McGuinness HRHA (1901-1980)

Norah McGuinness 1The Irish landscape artist, graphic designer and illustrator Norah McGuinness was born in County Derry, Northern Ireland. She studied drawing and fine art painting at the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin (now the National College of Art & Design), the Chelsea Polytechnic, London, and then (on the advice of Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone) under the French artist André l’Hote, in Paris.

From France, McGuinness moved to London, becoming a member of the avant-garde London Group, and from 1937-39 she lived in New York. After America, she returned to settle in Dublin in 1940. She was elected an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1957 but resigned in 1969.

Norah McGuinness executed vivid, highly coloured, flattened landscape paintings, (as well as still-life and portrait art) in a spontaneous style influenced in part by the colourist Fauvist movement and the artist Lhote. Although her painting remained figurative, her work reveals the Cubist influence of Lhote, and she was associated with the modern movement in Ireland. A founder member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (she succeeded Mainie Jellet as President in 1944), McGuinness (like Maurice MacGonigal) first showed at the RHA in 1924 and became an honorary member (HRHA) in 1957. She exhibited her paintings and designs in Ireland at the Victor Waddington Galleries and The Dawson Gallery, Dublin, and in London at the Wertheim Gallery. Together with Nano Reid, she represented Ireland in the 1950 Venice Biennale.

In addition to paintings, Norah McGuinness executed a large number of book illustrations, theatre sets and costume designs during her career. She also designed the sales windows of Altman’s in New York and Brown Thomas, Grafton Street for over thirty years.

Norah McGuinness 2In 1968, a retrospective for Norah McGuinness artworks, numbering over 100, was staged by the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin. Another retrospective took place at the Frederick Gallery, Dublin, in 1996.

Her work appears in all the major Irish public collections – including: Hugh Lane Art Gallery, Dublin; Arts Council of Ireland; Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; University College Dublin; Waterford Art Gallery Collection; The Victoria and Albert Museum London; Meath County Council – as well as in several important overseas collections such as the Joseph H. Hirschorn collection in New York.

The auction record for a work by Norah McGuinness was set in 2006, when his landscape painting, entitled The Little Harvest, Mayo, was sold at James Adams, in Dublin, for €210,000.

Mary Harriet (Mainie) Jellett (1897-1944)

Mainie_Jellett_-_'Achill_Horses',_1938,_Oil_on_canvasThe abstract artist and figure painter Mainie Jellett was born in Dublin. She studied drawing and fine art painting at the National College of Art in Dublin and under Walter Sickert at the Westminster Art School in London. It was in London that she met her lifelong friend and fellow artist Evie Hone.

Jellett had precocious talent as a painter, and while starting out as a follower of Impressionism she began – as a result of her association with the Parisian abstract painter and teacher Albert Gleizes – to develop a greater interest in modern abstract art like Cubism. Along with Evie Hone and Mary Swanzy, Jellett was one of the earliest abstract painters in the history of Irish art.

In 1923, together with a like-minded Evie Hone, she staged one of the first abstract painting exhibitions seen in Ireland at the Society of Dublin Painters. While the critics were horrified at the evident lack of “representational art”, later art experts acknowledge Jellett’s role in helping to maintain contact between European and Irish art.

Mainie Jellet continued to paint in the abstract Cubist style and to exhibit. WB Yeats opened one of her exhibitions in 1926 at the Dublin Radical Club, while she again exhibited at the Dublin Painters Gallery in 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929. In addition, she exhibited abroad several times during the 1920s: in Paris, Versailles, Brussels, London (with the London Group), and Amsterdam.

From 1930-1937, she showed at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). From 1931, she also exhibited with the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI), showing over 45 paintings from 1931-1943. More exhibitions followed, at the Gate Theatre and St Stephens Green.

Throughout the 1930s she wrote about and taught art – the latter in both Dublin and Cork – playing an important role in the history of Irish painting, as an early proponent of abstraction in art and as a champion of the modern movement.

Mainie Jellett 1Although Jellett’s pictures were often attacked critically, she proved eloquent in defence of her ideas. Her resilience may have been due to her firm Christian beliefs. Indeed, a number of her paintings, though quite abstract, have religious titles and are similar to icons in tone and palate. Along with Evie Hone, Louis le Brocquy, Jack Hanlon and Norah McGuinness, Jellett helped found the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943. She died a year later, aged 47.

Mainie Jellett’s work is represented in many collections including: Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; Niland Art Collection, Sligo; Butler Gallery Collection, Kilkenny; Trinity College, Dublin; The Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

The auction record for a work by Mainie Jellett was set in 2006, when her oil painting, entitled Abstract Composition, was sold at Sotheby’s, in London, for £84,000.

Mary Swanzy (1882 – 1978) Ireland

Mary Swanzy 1.jpg Mary Swanzy often defined herself as a woman who grew up in an era when Ladies have to paint pussy-woosies and doggie-woggies. Swanzy painted neither, working outside the accepted conventions during her long career. Independent and confident, she pursued what intrigued her, regardless of fashion or current movement. As a result she explored numerous styles throughout her lifetime and was one of the first women to paint in the cubist style.

Mary Swanzy grew up in an upper-class family that encouraged her artistic interests. She attended art school in Dublin. Like many artists of her time she found her way to Paris and was included occasionally in the salon of Gertrude Stein, one of  modern art’s most important patrons. There she became acquainted with the work of Matisse and Picasso, Cezanne, Gauguin and Daumier. Despite these revolutionary influences, Swanzy’s formal education encouraged an appreciation for artists of the Renaissance. Each of these influences find their way into Swanzy’s art.

After Paris, Swanzy returned to Dublin where she was one of a handful of talented female artists working in Ireland including Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone. Swanzy’s family urged her to follow the conventional path of Ireland’s artists, which meant becoming a portrait painter and teaching. While neither of these pursuits interested Swanzy, to support herself she did some portraits as well as illustrations for periodicals.

Her first one woman show in 1913 opened to mixed reviews. The negative response from a conservative Irish public did not discourage the artist from pursuing her own path. Soon thereafter the death of a parent broke up her home but brought financial independence and Swanzy responded by traveling the world. In 1914, in an exhibition at the Salon des Independents, Swanzy exhibited alongside other modernists including Robert Delaunay whose Orphic-Cubist works influenced her direction. In 1916 Swanzy was included in an exhibition at Grosvenor Gallery in London and the following year she exhibited again in the Salon des Independents in Paris.

Some contemporary historians have noted that Swanzy’s gender may have done more to free her than restrict her. Swanzy had the resources and the leisure to pursue what she wished. She was not obligated to generate income or concerned about establishing a reputation. Had Swanzy been born male, it might have been more difficult to resist the pressure to work in the accepted style and cultivate a following. Today Swanzy’s reputation as the first Irish cubist is secure.

Mary Swanzy 2.jpgIt is difficult to determine exactly when Swanzy painted the images included here. Like many other artists of the time, she did not date her works, but the influence of cubism and futurism on these paintings cannot be denied. Swanzy borrows the cubist strategy of fragmenting the form, and combines it with the futurists’ approach of layering pattern to simulate motion. The skillful use of color and light, the considered placement of curved and angular forms work to make these two images among Swanzy’s most compelling. There is a dynamism and energy evident that many modernists sought in their work.

More than likely these paintings were done sometime between 1914 and 1925 after she had digested the influences of cubism and before her cubist style softened, becoming less mathematical and more lyrical. Cubist Study of Skyscrapers illustrates how Swanzy was influenced by her travels. In this painting the arched doorways of Southern Europe are projected into futurist skyscrapers. Her choice of earth tones for the Italianate architecture and the bolder tones of purples and yellows for the skyscrapers add to the sense of the past evolving into a brighter future. This painting glorifies the city to come, containing the upward, forward motion typical of futurist images.

The same celebration of technology’s promise can be found in Futuristic Study with Skyscrapers and Propellers where the surging diagonal of the whirling propellers illustrates the hope and trust placed in the new machine age. The motion and the dynamic lines that cut through this composition link it with the more formal properties proposed by futurists. The fragmentation and expression evident in these canvases link Swanzy with the cubism of Robert Delaunay and Jacques Villon.

Swanzy’s passion for travel took her all over the world, including Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. In 1924 and 1925 she lived in Honolulu and Samoa. Swanzy worked and painted in response to each location. In 1926 Swanzy settled in South London where she lived for the remainder of her life. In 1943 she had a one person exhibition at the Dublin Painter’s Gallery. After that she participated in group exhibitions around London, which included paintings by other important modernists like Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Marc Chagall and Henry Moore.

Like many, Swanzy was deeply affected by the despair and destruction created by World War II. From 1945 until the end of her life she painted using allegory and symbolism. Toward the end of her life, the work became more lyrical, less disturbing. Mary Swanzy lived the latter part of her life in obscurity in London but continued to paint up to her death at age 96. Ten years before she died, Swanzy was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin.

This profile originally at: http://jlwcollection.com/jlwcollection.com/JLW_Collection.html