Mainie Jellett

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Achill Horses by Mainie Jellett, 1938

Mary Harriet Jellett, known as Mainie Jellett (1897, Dublin – 1944, Dublin) was an Irish painter whose Decoration (1923) was among the first abstract paintings shown in Ireland when it was exhibited at the Society of Dublin Painters Group Show in 1923. She was the daughter of William Morgan Jellett an MP.

Mainie Jellett studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin and under Walter Sickert at the Westminster Technical Institute in London. She showed precocious talent as an artist in the impressionist style. However, with her companion Evie Hone, she then moved to Paris, where, working under André Lhote and Albert Gleizes she encountered cubism and began an exploration of non-representational art. After 1921 she and Evie Hone returned to Dublin but for the next decade they continued to spend part of each year in Paris.

A deeply committed Christian, her paintings, though strictly non-representational, often have religious titles and often resemble icons in tone and palate. In Irish Art, a Concise History Bruce Arnold writes that

"Many of her abstracts are built up from a central 'eye' or 'heart' in arcs of colour, help up and together by the rhythm of line and shape, and given depth and intensity - a sense of abstract perspective - by the basic understanding of light and colour"

Jellett was an important figure in Irish art history, both as an early proponent of abstract art and as a champion of the modern movement. Her painting was often attacked critically but she proved eloquent in defense of her ideas. Along with Evie Hone, Louis le Brocquy, Jack Hanlon and Norah McGuinness she helped found the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943. She died a year later, aged 47.

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