Gerard Dillon

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Gerard Dillon
Born 1915/1916
Belfast, Ireland
Died 14 June 1971 (aged 55)
Resting place Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Occupation Artist

Gerard Dillon (1916 – 14 June 1971) was an Irish artist. Born in Belfast, he left school at the age of fourteen and for seven years worked as a painter and decorator, mostly in London. From an early age he was interested in art, cinema, and theatre. About 1936 he started out as an artist.

His Connemara landscapes provided the viewer with context, portraits of the characters who worked the land, atmosphere and idiosyncratic colour interpretations. Aged 18, Dillon went to London, initially working as a decorator. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Belfast. Over the next five years he developed as a painter in Dublin and Belfast. His works during this period were more than simple depictions of the life and people around him, they were reactions and interactions in paint.

In 1942, his first solo exhibition was opened by his friend and fellow artist, Mainie Jellett at The Country Shop, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. "Father, Forgive Them Their Sins" featured depicting his concerns about the new war that had broken out. Despite a growing reputation, he had to return to London in 1944 to work on demolition gangs to restore his finances. In the late 1940s and during the 1950s, Dillon found himself favouring the town of Roundstone, Connemara.

In 1958, he had the double honour of representing Ireland at the Guggenheim International, and Great Britain at the Pittsburg International Exhibition. He travelled widely in Europe and taught for brief periods in the London art schools.

Last years[edit]

In 1967, Dillon suffered a stroke and spent six weeks in hospital, from this time his work changed direction. A notion of imminent death sent his work almost into another world, a realm of dreams and paintings intimating his death. In 1968 he was back in Dublin, where he helped to design sets and costumes for O'Casey's Juno [clarification needed] and the Paycock [clarification needed]. He continued to paint and also to make tapestries, sitting at his Singer sewing machine.[citation needed]

In 1969, Dillon pulled his artworks from the Belfast leg of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in purported protest during the Troubles against the "arrogance of the Unionist mob", as he put it in a letter to The Irish Times, 20 August 1969. Michael Longley retorted in a further letter, "Belfast needed creativity, it needed people like Gerard Dillon". During his last years, Dillon was invited to be involved in a children's art workshop in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Dillon died of a second stroke on 14 June 1971 at the age of 55; his grave, as requested, is unmarked in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery. Danlann Gerard Dillon/The Gerard Dillon Gallery in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich is named in his honour.[citation needed]

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