Adventures in Art

Mary Swanzy is a major figure in Irish art, but also a complex, isolated one with whom we have yet to come to terms, writes Brian Fallon, as IMMA launches an exhibition of her work as part of the Modern Masters series

Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) is arguably Ireland’s finest woman painter and one of Irish art’s most remarkable personalities. The fact that her life (a fascinating one in itself) and achievements have been treated in such muted terms does not necessarily mean that she was either forgotten or ignored. Swanzy usually kept a following in her homeland, but long absence in England made her unfamiliar to at least one generation of art-lovers, if not two. Her 1968 retrospective at the Dublin Municipal (now Hugh Lane) Gallery was a landmark in her rediscovery, but 1960s art fashions made it seem more of an art-historical event than a contemporary one. It is only quite recently that a powerful current in her favour has made itself felt and can no longer be ignored.

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