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Mainie Jellett

(1897—1944) painter and writer on art


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(1897–1944)

Irish painter, stage designer, writer, lecturer, and administrator, one of the most important pioneers of modern art in her country. She was born in Dublin, where she studied at the Metropolitan School of Art before spending two years (1917–19) at the Westminster School of Art in London, where Sickert was among her teachers. In 1920 she went to Paris, where she studied with Lhote and then with Gleizes (along with her friend Evie Hone) and she returned to visit Gleizes regularly until 1932. By 1923 she was painting in a completely abstract, Cubist-inspired style (Decoration, 1923, NG, Dublin,). Her work in this vein prompted derision when exhibited at the Dublin Painters' Society, and she devoted much of her energy—throughs essays and lectures—to trying to overcome conservative attitudes in Ireland, which was then culturally isolated. In the 1930s figurative elements reappeared in her painting, and her later work included landscapes and religious subjects. She also made designs for the theatre and ballet.

Jellett died young of cancer, but the year before her death, her campaigning on behalf of modern art bore fruit in the founding of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, of which she was first chairman. This was an exhibiting society that became the main venue for avant-garde art in Ireland for many years.

Subjects: Art — European History.


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