Patrick Swift is not quite a rara avis in the Irish art market but his appearances at auction are infrequent: around ten paintings since 2010. He died relatively young, fifty-six, and lived abroad for much of his life, facts which surely contribute to this relative dearth. A particularly fine example of his work came up at the Important Irish Art auction at Adam’s in March. Girl in a Garden features Swift’s girl friend at the time, the American poet Claire McAllister. Swift was more inclined to move in literary than in artistic circles and was in fact a fine writer himself.
This happened long after the painting was completed so we should read nothing more than perhaps a lover’s tiff into her demeanour, or, more prosaically, it may just indicate a bored sitter
McAllister is seated in the garden of his studio in Hatch Street. Her stern expression and rather stiff pose on the stony step are in marked contrast to nature’s playful profusion in the greenery around her. She is glowering like someone who has marched out after a row. The french windows leading into the house are ajar. Swift was to leave her a few years later and decamp to London, following Oonagh Ryan who was to become his wife. This happened long after the painting was completed so we should read nothing more than perhaps a lover’s tiff into her demeanour, or, more prosaically, it may just indicate a bored sitter. Swift’s beautifully composed painting would surely have brought harmony to any temporary domestic discord. This example of Swift at his best went for €32,000, some €12,000 above the lower estimate. John P O’Sullivan
Image: Patrick Swift (1927-1983) Girl in a Garden oil on canvas 134.5×106.5cm