Patrick Swift, Algarve studio, 1978
12 August 1927|
|Died||19 July 1983
|Resting place||Igreja Matriz (Porches)|
|Known for||Painting, ceramics, criticism, poetry, literature|
In Dublin he formed part of the Envoy arts review / McDaid's pub circle of artistic and literary figures. In London he moved into the Soho bohemia where, with the poet David Wright, he founded and co-edited X magazine. In Portugal he continued painting while also writing and illustrating books on Portugal and founding Porches Pottery, which revived a dying industry. During his lifetime Swift had only two solo exhibitions. His first exhibition at the Waddington Gallery, Dublin, in 1952 was well acclaimed. For Swift, however, his art seems to have been a personal and private matter. In 1993 the Irish Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of Swift's work.
He was a figurative painter. (Aidan Dunne: "He was a representational artist through and through...Fidelity to visual experience above all.") Though his style changed considerably over the years, his essential personality as an artist never did. He was plainly not interested in the formalist aspects of Modernism. He wanted art to have an expressive, emotive, even psychological content, though not in any literary sense. Anthony Cronin: "He was never in any doubt that painting was a re-creation of what the painter saw: in his own case at least not what the painter had seen or could imagine, but what he was actually looking at during the act of painting. A faithfulness of the sort was part of the bargain, part of his contract with his art… [which] had nothing to do with description…What was at stake was a faithful recreation of the truth to the artist of the experience, in the painter’s case the visual experience, the artist being admittedly only one witness, one accomplice during and after the fact. Of course this faithfulness did not rule out expressionist overtones. The truth was doubtless subjective as well as objective. Swift's blues and greys were usually properties of what he was painting. They were also part of his vision of things, properties of his mind. We felt then that time could only find its full expression through an art that was frugal, ascetic, puritanical even." 
Although he commented on art Swift never affiliated with any official or quasi-official art group or "style". He had three distinct "periods": Dublin, London, and Algarve. His work comprises portraits, "tree portraits" (trees held a special fascination for Swift), rural landscapes and urban landscapes. He worked in a variety of media including oils, watercolour, ink, charcoal, lithography and ceramics.
He was educated at Synge Street CBS, a Christian Brothers School in Dublin. Although a self-taught artist he did attend night classes at the National College of Art in 1946 & 48 (under Sean Keating), freelanced in London in the late 1940s and attended the Grande Chaumière in Paris, where he met Giacometti, in the summer of 1950. In the late 1940s he had a studio on Baggot Street, and from 1950-52 he set up his studio on Hatch Street. Lucian Freud would share Swift's studio when he visited Dublin. He first exhibited professionally in group shows at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1950 & 51 where his work was singled out by critics. The Dublin Magazine commented on Swift’s "uncompromising clarity of vision which eschews the accidental or the obvious or the sentimental" and "shows his power to convey the full impact of the object, as though the spectator were experiencing it for the first time." In 1952 he held his first solo exhibition at the Waddington Galleries. Time magazine:
"Irish critics got a look at the work of a tousled young (25) man named Paddy Swift and tossed their caps in the air. Paddy's 30 canvases are as grey and gloomy as Dublin itself — harshly realistic paintings of dead birds and rabbits, frightened-looking girls and twisted potted plants. Their fascination is in the merciless, sharply etched details, as oppressive and inquiring as a back-room third degree. Dublin Understands. Wrote Critic Tony Gray in the Irish Times: Swift 'unearths [from his subjects] not a story, nor a decorative pattern, nor even a mood, but some sort of tension which is a property of their existence.' Said the Irish Press: 'An almost embarrassing candor... Here is a painter who seems to have gone back to the older tradition and to have given the most searching consideration to the composition of his painting.' Dublin, which likes authors who write with a shillelagh, understood an artist who painted with one. The Word Is Tension. By 1950, Paddy was in Paris... Nights, he went to the galleries, and there he found what he wanted to do. He liked such old French masters as the 17th century's Nicolas Poussin, the 19th century's Eugène Delacroix, such moderns as Switzerland's Alberto Giacometti and Britain's Francis Bacon. The much-admired decorative style of the Matisses is not for Paddy Swift. 'Art,' he thinks, 'is obviously capable of expressing something more closely related to life than these elegant designs.' His main idea is to suggest the tensions he finds in life. 'I believe when you bring, say, a plant into a room, everything in that room changes in relation to it. This tension — tension is the only word for it — can be painted.'" This may have been Swift's only interview. A motif of his work at this time was his bird imagery, which appear to have symbolic overtones, and may have even been a subtle form of self-portraiture. From early on he was involved with literary magazines, such as The Bell and Envoy, contributing the occasional critical piece on art and artists he admired (e.g.Nano Reid, who painted Swift's portrait in 1950). He formed part of the group of artists and writers who were involved with Envoy. Dublin portraits include Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, John Jordan, Patrick Pye, and Julia O'Faolain. During this period he also got to know the likes of Samuel Beckett (possibly one portrait) and Edward McGuire. Following the Waddington exhibition Swift moved to London in November 1952, using it as his base, with occasional trips to Dublin and stays in France, Italy, Oakridge and the Digswell Arts Trust.
Italy, Oakridge & Digswell Arts Trust
In 1954 he was awarded a grant by the Irish Cultural Relations Committee to study art in Italy. He was accompanied by his future wife, Oonagh Ryan. Following his year in Italy Swift returned to Dublin, via Paris and London, for Christmas 1955, where Oonagh wanted to be for the birth of their first child. He then returned to London in 1956 and accepted Elizabeth Smart's offer to share Winstone Cottage (then owned by John Rothenstein), which contained a studio, in Oakridge, Gloucestershire. October 1958 – October 1959 he held a fellowship at the Digswell Arts Trust, for a period sharing a studio with Michael Andrews. During his residency at Digswell he painted many views of Ashwell and its Springs, one of which was presented by Henry Morris to Melbourn Village College at its opening in 1959.
Swift was familiar with London and its literary and artistic circles by the early 1950s. In 1953 he shared a flat with Anthony Cronin in Camden but actually used it as his studio, staying instead with Oonagh in Hampstead — it was at this point that Swift and Wright first discussed the idea of creating a new literary magazine, a quarterly which would publish writing on artistic issues they felt to be of importance. 1957-58 he had a flat and studio in Eccleston Square. 1959-62 he lived in Westbourne Terrace (Elizabeth Smart lived upstairs), and it was during this period that he founded X magazine
In London his work grew more expressive. Brian Fallon: "In London his style changed, not immediately, but gradually and very thoroughly. In fact, it was less a stylistic change than a transformation. From being a painter with sharp, angular lines and a thin paint surface, he became one who ‘drew with the brush’. Modelled in heavy, laden strokes, and in general, daubed and dragged the paint around until it did his bidding. Stylistically, his ‘first period’ and ‘second period’ could hardly be more different from one another, though the underlying sensibility somehow remains."
London portraits include the poets George Barker, Patrick Kavanagh, David Wright, Brian Higgins, John Heath-Stubbs, Paul Potts, C. H. Sisson, and David Gascoyne. At the time Swift was sometimes referred to as the "poets' painter" — many of his close friends were poets and they seem to have regarded him as "their" painter. Apart from close family members, poets were almost exclusively subjects of his portraits. Regarding these London portraits Fallon says, "once again, his approach was basically humanist, not formalist... [these London portraits] are among the finest portraits painted in Britain at this period... Yet they were seen by only a handful of people, and in some cases were even lucky to have survived." In 1962 Swift left London for an extended trip to southern Europe.
Swift’s travels led him to the small fishing village of Carvoeiro in the Algarve. He was so enchanted with the place that he remained. In Algarve he painted, wrote and illustrated books on Portugal and founded Porches Pottery (Olaria Algarve). He designed the building that houses Porches Pottery, along with several other buildings. He exhibited: drawings for Algarve: a portrait and a guide at the Diário de Notícias Gallery, Lisbon (1965); an exhibition of Porches Pottery at the Galeria Diário de Notícias, Lisbon (1970); an exhibition of his paintings at Galeria S Mamede, Lisbon (1974). He designed the sets for The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Portuguese National Theatre Company, Lisbon (1977). Swift lived and worked in the Algarve from 1962 until his premature death, from an inoperable brain tumour, in 1983. His work from this period includes portraits of his friend Francisco de Sá Carneiro (who commissioned Swift to paint his portrait when he was elected Prime Minister in 1980) and his partner, Snu Abecassis (Danish-born journalist and editor who founded the Portuguese publishing house, Publicações Dom Quixote). Swift is buried in the Igreja Matriz church in Porches, for which he designed the stations of the cross.
Criticism and X magazine
In Dublin and London he partook of artistic and, always, literary life, and from early on was involved with literary magazines. In London he founded and co-edited, with the poet David Wright, X magazine, for which he contributed articles under the pseudonym "James Mahon" (Swift's mother was a Mahon from Co. Wicklow). Wright declared Swift to be "the true begetter and leading light of X", noting that he "was of course responsible for the art side of the magazine ... nor was he any less active on the literary side of the magazine. Here Swift and I worked in perfect harmony." Aside from his involvement with X magazine, Swift was instrumental in several writers and poets having their work published, such as Patrick Kavanagh, John McGahern (first published in X magazine), C. H. Sisson, Brian Higgins and David Wright. David Wright regarding Swift promoting his own work: "Swift and Cronin... brought me to the attention of the publisher Derek Verschoyle — and this was typical of Swift, who would take immense pains to push the product of anybody whose work he believed in, yet never bothered to promote his own."
"X, a remarkable publication which, in some respects, was light years ahead of its time ... Swift's criticism is that of the practicing artist not that of a practicing critic, and when speaking of his criticism I do not merely mean only his occasional critical essays, but his activity as co-editor of a magazine and as champion of Bacon, Freud, Auerbach, Craigie Aitchison, Nano Reid, Giacometti and David Bomberg (whose posthumous papers he edited). This is criticism in the valid, active, propagandistic sense, not merely the daily or weekly grind of reviewing all sorts and conditions of artists, good and bad, but mostly mediocre. Once again much of Swift's activity in this field was semi-underground, almost subversive, often done in the teeth of the modernist establishment of his day. His record in this field speaks for itself... I cannot think of any other Irish painter who achieved anything like what he did as a critic and editor and discoverer of talent, and very few painters in any other country either. Wyndham Lewis, it is true, was a verbose propagandist, but on the whole he was a bad critic, and somehow his propaganda almost always turns out to be some form of self-aggrandisement, whereas Swift almost always pushed the fortunes and reputations of his friends and almost never his own. Yet, you do not get, from his general stance, that his motives were simply friendship and good intentions. There is a tone of dedication throughout, as though he was serving art, and not merely artists... It is a peculiarity of his very individual psyche and personality that Swift cannot be ‘placed’ purely as a painter. He was an artist in the broad sense before he was specifically a painter, and his context embraces literature and other disciplines besides painting or drawing (It is noticeable that he had more friends who were literary men than friends who were painters). Swift is not a painter’s painter, he is an artist’s artist, a man whose mentality overlapped into other fields besides his own chosen one."
In 1993 Gandon Editions published a biography of Swift to coincide with the IMMA Retrospective. The IMMA Retrospective was acclaimed by critics and artists alike. In 2002 the Department of Foreign Affairs (who also awarded Swift the grant to study in Italy) sponsored the "Patrick Swift: An Irish Artist In Portugal" exhibitions that were held at the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork, and Palacio Foz in Lisbon. In 2004 Swift's work appeared on the BBC Antiques Roadshow. In 2005 the Office of Public Works, Dublin, held an exhibition of paintings, drawings and watercolours by Swift. His portrait of Patrick Kavanagh forms part of the CIÉ (Irish state transport authority) collection and recently toured as part of the "CIE: Art On The Move" exhibitions to much acclaim. Two pictures from IMMA's permanent collection, Forget-me-[K]nots on a Cane Table & London Self-Portrait, were exhibited in "The Moderns" exhibition (IMMA, October 2010-February 2011).
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Patrick Swift|
- Patrick Swift 1927-83 - PS...of course, Veronica O'Mara (ed.), Gandon Editions, Kinsale (1993). ISBN 0-946641-37-4
- An Anthology from X, selected by David Wright, Oxford University Press (1988). ISBN 0-19-212266-5
- Patrick Swift 1927-83, Irish Museum of Modern Art Retrospective Catalogue(1993); Anthony Cronin (poet) and Aidan Dunne (art critic). ISBN 1-873654-12-X
- An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions (2001); contributions by Fernando de Azvedo (painter and President of Sociedade de Bellas Artes, Lisbon), Peter Murray (Director Crawford Gallery, Cork) and Brian Fallon's "Patrick Swift and Irish art". ISBN 0-946846-75-8
- Dictionary of Irish Artists, Theo Snoddy, Merlin Publishing, Dublin (2002), p. 640
- X, Volume 1, Numbers 1-4, November 1959-October 1960, Barrie & Rockliff (1961)
- Patrick Swift and David Wright produced three books on Portugal, all illustrated by Swift: Algarve: a portrait and a guide (Barrie & Rockliff, London, 1965); Minho: a portrait and a guide (Barrie & Rockliff, London, 1968); Lisbon: a portrait and a guide (Barrie & Rockliff, London, 1971)
- (A guide to) Birds of Southern Portugal, Randolph Cary, Barrie & Rockliff, London (1973)
- Algarve: a portrait and a guide (1965); Minho: a portrait and a guide (1968); Lisbon: a portrait and a guide (1971)
- Das harte Leben, Heinrich Böll's German translation of Flann O’Brien's The Hard Life, German edition (1966)
- My Love to the Beaks and Tails, Annie Sise, Readers Union (1976). ISBN 0-575-01955-7
- The Canterbury tales, translated into modern English prose by David Wright (London, Harris, 1964); endpapers by Patrick Swift.
- A Patrick Kavanagh Anthology, Platt, Eugene Robert, Ed., Commedia Publishing Co., Dublin (1973); portrait of Kavanagh
- Dead as Doornails, Anthony Cronin, Dolmen Press, Dublin (1976); portrait of Anthony Cronin on the cover
- Martello Spring 1984, Maureen Charlton & John Stafford, Blackrock: Ardmore Records (1984); illustrated with 6 coloured plates by Irish artists incl. Walter Osborne, Patrick Swift & R.B. Beechey.
- Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Antoinette Quinn, Gill & Macmillan (2003)
- The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker, Robert Fraser, Jonathan Cape (2001)
- Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist, Denis Sampson, Oxford University Press (2012). ISBN 978-0-19-964177-2.
- Love Of The World, John McGahern, Essays, Edited by Stanley van der Ziel, Faber and Faber (2009); "The Bird Swift".
- Edward McGuire - RHA, Brian Fallon, Irish Academic Press (1991)
- Remembering How We Stood, John Ryan, Gill and Macmillan, Dublin (1975)
- Dead as Doornails, Anthony Cronin, Dolmen Press, Dublin (1976); includes a portrait of Anthony Cronin by Swift on the cover
- On the Look-out, CH Sission, Carcanet Press, Manchester (1989).
- The Collected Poems of Elizabeth Smart, David Gascoyne (ed.) (Paladin, London, 1992)
- By Heart - The Life of Elizabeth Smart, Rosemary Sullivan (Flamingo, London, 1992)
- Selected Poems, Homage to George Barker (On his Sixtieth Birthday), John Heath-Stubbs & Martin Green, -eds, Martin Brian & O'Keefe Ltd (1973); includes Swift's portrait of Barker and Swift's essay on Barker, "Prolegomenon to George Barker".
- Selected Poems, David Wright, Carcanet Press Ltd (1 July 1988); "Images for a Painter". ISBN 0-85635-753-7
- The Moderns, IMMA, Irish artists and writers — the development of modern Ireland through its arts in the period from the 1900s to 1970s (2011)
- Modern Art in Ireland, Dorothy Walker, The Lilliput Press (1997)
- Crystal Clear: The Selected Prose of John Jordan, ed. by Hugh McFadden, Lilliput Press (2006). ISBN 1-84351-066-9
- "Lucian Freud: Prophet of Discomfort", Mic Moroney, Irish Arts Review (2007) 
- Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne, Robert Fraser (OUP 2012)
- Trespassers: A Memoir, Julia O'Faolain (Faber & Faber 2013)
- PN Review: Patrick Swift Obituary, PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983 ; Fourteen Letters (to David Wright), C.H. Sisson, PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.
- Selected Poems, John Jordan, ed. Hugh McFadden, Dedalus Press, Dublin ( 2008); "Second Letter: To Patrick Swift"
- Collected Poems, C.H. Sission, Carcanet Press Ltd (1998); "For Patrick Swift"
- "Patrick Swift", John Ryan, Envoy, vol 5/20 (July 1951)
- "Young artist of promise", G.H.G, The Irish Times, 3 October 1952
- 'AN IRISHMAN'S DIARY' - QUIDNUNC (Seamus Kelly), The Irish Times, 11 October 1952
- 'Art: Life with a Shillelagh', Time Magazine, 20 October 1952
- "The Fall and Rise of Patrick Swift", Brian Fallon, The Irish Times, 11 June 1992
- "The lost hope of Irish art", Aidan Dunne, The Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1993
- "The legacy of Patrick Swift", Brian Fallon, The Irish Times, 2 December 1993
- Paintings by Patrick Swift at the Victor Waddington Galleries, 8 South Anne Street, Dublin (1952); copy held at the National Library of Ireland.
- Pinturas de Patrick Swift, Galeria S Mamede, Lisbon (1974)
- Patrick Swift 1927-83, Irish Museum of Modern Art Retrospective Catalogue (1993)
- 2005 Paintings, drawings and watercolours by Patrick Swift, Office of Public Works Atrium, Dublin, Ireland
- 2002 An Irish Painter in Portugal Retrospective, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork
- 1994 Patrick Swift 1927-83, Ulster Museum, Belfast
- 1993 Patrick Swift 1927-83, Irish Museum of Modern Art Retrospective, Dublin
- 1974 Pinturas de Patrick Swift, Galeria S Mamede, Lisbon
- 1965 Desenhos do Algarve, Diário de Notícias Gallery, Lisbon; an exhibition of Swift's drawings for Algarve: a portrait and a guide
- 1952 Paintings by Patrick Swift, Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin
- New Portraits, National Gallery of Ireland (Dec 2013 - Feb 2014), Portrait of Anthony Cronin
- The Moderns, IMMA, October 2010- February 2011; Forget-me-[K]nots on a Cane Table & London Self-Portrait - from IMMA's permanent collection
- Lunds Konsthall, Sweden, 1972; Study (with Holly), a painting from his first group exhibition, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, 1950; Study (with Holly) was also exhibited at the Cork Rosc, Irish Art 1943-73, 1980
- Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh (CIÉ collection): RHA, 1968; 1971 ROSC exhibition, The Irish Imagination; in 2005 it toured as part of the "CIE: Art On The Move" exhibitions
- Contemporary Arts Society Exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1961; the Contemporary Arts Society bought The Garden (1959) and presented it to the Warrington Museum & Art Gallery
- "Drawings, watercolours, gouache, ceramics", Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin, 1954; five watercolours
- Contemporary Irish Art, National Library of Wales, Aberystwth, 1953
- Leicester Galleries, Jan 1952, Plants in a Potting Shed
- Irish Exhibition of Living Art (1950, 51, 52, 54, 56)
- National Gallery of Ireland, Portrait of Anthony Cronin
- IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Permanent Collection: Self-Portrait in the Studio & Forget-me-[K]nots on a cane table
- National Portrait Gallery (London): Patrick Joseph Kavanagh, lithograph, 1956, NPG D9523
- National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, Limerick University: Self-Portrait, c. 1950, ink on paper Image
- Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, The Garden, oil BBC Your Paintings
- Ulster Museum, National Museums Northern Ireland, Positano Palm Tree BBC Your Paintings
- Glebe Gallery, Trees at St. Columb's, oil Image
- Dublin Writers Museum, Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh
- CIE Collection, Art on the move, Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh
- The Kelly Collection (Kelly’s Resort Hotel Rosslare), Trees in London, oil on board; image in For the Love of Art, The Kelly Collection 
Articles by Swift
- "David Wright", PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980
- "Prolegomenon to George Barker", X, vol. I, No. 3, June 1960; also published in John Heath-Stubbs and Martin Green (eds) Homage to George Barker on his 60th Birthday (Martin Brian & O’Keefe, London, 1973)
- "The Bomberg Papers", edited by Swift, X, vol.1, no.3, June 1960; An Anthology from X (Oxford University Press, 1988)
- "The Painter in the Press" (under the pseudonym "James Mahon"), X A Quarterly Review, vol. I, no.4, October 1960; An Anthology from X (OUP 1988) read article
- "Official Art & The Modern Painter" (under the pseudonym "James Mahon"), X Quarterly Review, vol. I, no., November, 1959
- "Mob Morals and the Art of loving Art" (under the pseudonym "James Mahon"), X A Quarterly Review, vol. I, no.3, June 1960; An Anthology from X (OUP 1988)
- "Some notes on Caravaggio", Nimbus, Winter 1956 read article
- "By Way of Preface" (taken from "A Report to the Committee of Cultural Relations, Dept of External Affairs, on a Year spent in Italy in the study of Art & Painting, December 1955"), Gandon Editions Biography, 1993 read article
- "Painting – The RHA Exhibition", The Bell, vol. 17, no. 13, June 1951
- "The Artist Speaks", Envoy - A Review of Literature and Art, Vol. 4, no. 15, Feb 1951 read article
- "Nano Reid", Envoy – A Review of Literature and Art, March 1950 read article
- A circle that included Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin and Brendan Behan.
- "Throughout his years in London, when he was right at the nerve centre of its art and literary life, he showed little interest in exhibiting his work." — Brian Fallon, "Patrick Swift and Irish Art", Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001(first published: Portfolio 2 - Modern Irish Arts Review, Gandon Editions, Cork, 1993); "Lucian Freud asks me if he is going to show in the new London Waddington’s, I answer that I did not think so, that I do not think he is interested in exhibiting his paintings. We are both puzzled." — Anthony Cronin, Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions Biography, 1993; "And one day I found him in his underground flat in Westbourne Terrace busily taking down all his canvases (or rather hardboards, for in those days he couldn’t afford canvas) from the walls and stowing them away in a cellar. His reason was: a millionaire art fancier had rung up to say he was calling and Swift did not want him to buy, or so much as see, his work." — David Wright, Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions, 1993; "In the world in which we all moved at that time, I used to be curious as to the detachment Paddy showed to the market place, at his indifference to the fashionable galleries where Freud and Bacon were the beckoning lights, along with Frank Auerbach; it was as if he'd taken Joyce's Stephen Daedalus to heart — that once the work is created, it is no longer anything to do with the artist, who simply stands aside and pares his nails." — Martin Green, Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions, 1993; "Many people assumed he had stopped painting altogether" — Brian Fallon, "The fall and rise of Patrick Swift", The Irish Times, 11 June 1992
- "He was a representational artist through and through, in the Kokoschka mould. Fidelity to visual experience above all." — Aidan Dunne, "The lost hope of Irish art", The Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1993
- "Though his style changed considerably over the years, his essential personality as an artist never did. He was plainly not interested in the formalist aspects of Modernism... He wanted art to have an expressive, emotive, even psychological content, though not in any literary sense."— Brian Fallon,"Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
- Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1993, Catalogue. Essays on Swift by Anthony Cronin (poet) and Aidan Dunne (art critic ): He was never in any doubt that painting was a re-creation of what the painter saw: in his own case at least not what the painter had seen or could imagine, but what he was actually looking at during the act of painting. A faithfulness of the sort was part of the bargain, part of his contract with his art… [which] had nothing to do with description…What was at stake was a faithful recreation of the truth to the artist of the experience, in the painter’s case the visual experience, the artist being admittedly only one witness, one accomplice during and after the fact. Of course this faithfulness did not rule out expressionist overtones. The truth was doubtless subjective as well as objective. Swift's blues and greys were usually properties of what he was painting. They were also part of his vision of things, properties of his mind. We felt then that time could only find its full expression through an art that was frugal, ascetic, puritanical even...In faraway Paris, Samuel Beckett felt the same thing, writing the trilogy that was to give asceticism, frugality, puritanisim and the bitter humour that lies at the heart of the joke that is life, their full expression. Swift's avoidance of warm colours... was born in that time and afterwards harked back to it
- John Ryan (founder of Envoy) in his introduction to Swift for the Rosc Catalogue 1971 (which included Swift's portrait of Kavanagh): "'He painted the trees and gardens he cherished and the people he loved; because he was, happily, not unduly concerned, a style that came naturally to him shortly became his own distinctive 'style' — his signature — as uniquely his own as the subject content. Swift's peculiar style reminds us of nobody but the artist — a telling point with a painter who has set no store on this aspect of the job. In Swift we have, then, a man with an observation that is both curious and affectionate — for his attention to details in his subject is paternal and not academic" - Rosc Catalogue, Irish Imagination, 1971; see also Adams auctioneers catalogue notes; and in Envoy (1951): "No clichés are employed to simplify his task and no tricks are superimposed to foster an illusion of originality. Academicians and abstractionists will equally deplore him, and probably for the same reasons. He has rejected the debased technique of the one and the dogmas of the other. He paints what he sees." — "Patrick Swift", by John Ryan, Envoy: A Review of Literature and Art, July 1951, vol 5/20
- His early work in Dublin, where he used a thin paint surface, has a tense, spare, more-real-than-real quality. In London he became more expressive in his use of paint, applying thick layers of paint, using the brush more and "modelling" the paint surface. In the Algarve he continues this trend into a heavy, broken impasto and some of his later work verges on becoming abstract.
- John McGahern (Swift drew his portrait in London in 1960) noted that he was fond of the line "those particular trees/ that caught you in their mysteries": "It was he who first told me how well Constable wrote in letters about trees, especially the plane trees, with their peeled strips of bark — ‘They soak up the polluted air' — and he quoted a favourite line, 'those particular trees/ that caught you in their mysteries’, mentioning that he preferred trees to flowers" ("The Bird Swift", Love Of The World, John McGahern, Edited by Stanley van der Ziel, Faber & Faber, 2009). Swift wrote in his Italian Notebook (Gandon Editions 1993): "I think that I probably have a real talent for painting trees if I developed it assiduously. I want to give them great density and depth pile heaps of detail into them and yet keep the sense of presence which is the whole point. I have started the painting of the palm tree outside the window. I can go straight at it because I have wanted to paint one for so long and have looked longingly into them so often in so many places". His later work is almost exclusively "tree portraits" and rural landscapes. Lima de Freitas (Gandon Editions 1993) writing about Swift's Algarve tree paintings: "Here his painting, which before had been sophisticated and ‘cultured’, was stripped bare and became a paean of praise, both voluptuous and sacred, to a perennial Spring. His exaltation bursts forth in a blaze of colour — like in Soutine, but a Soutine of happiness. He is intoxicated by a joy that casts away the erudite codes of style and revelled in the tangibility of the natural world. Impatiently, Patrick Swift searches out the roots of inner essence. A conjunction of opposites, of a characteristically fiery imagination and the cool verdure of plants and trees produced a kind of ‘naturalism' — but one which is the antithesis of timid conformity and mediocrity and could only have emerged from a process of rediscovering and reshaping a lost innocence... Patrick Swift’s paintings are an act of praise and wonder." Swift in 1952 also mentions "naturalism": "He sees an inevitable swing in modern art from surrealism to naturalism, but adds at once: 'It must be a purely visual and personal naturalism without the formulae of the academics.'"(AN IRISHMAN'S DIARY — QUIDNUNC, Seamus Kelly, The Irish Times, 11 October 1952)
- "A more rewarding approach to painting, in my opinion the only valid one, is to regard it as a deeply personal and private activity" — Swift, "By Way of Preface", from a Report to the Committee of Cultural Relations, Dept of External Affairs, on a Year spent in Italy in the study of Art & Painting, December 1955; "The Art of painting is itself an intensely personal activity. It may be labouring the obvious to say so but it is too little recognised in art journalism now that a picture is a unique and private event in the life of the painter: an object made alone with a man and a blank canvas... A real painting is something which happens to the painter once in a given minute; it is unique in that it will never happen again and in this sense is an impossible object. It is judged by the painter simply as a success or failure without qualification. And it is something which happens in life not in art: a picture which was merely the product of art would not be very interesting and could tell us nothing we were not already aware of." — "The Painter in the Press", X, October 1960. It could be added that Swift did not subscribe to the "idea of progress in the arts" (“Official Art and the Modern Painter”, X magazine, November 1959), believing that "the mass of modern art theory that developed around the fantastic changes of this century's painting can be largely ignored."("Nano Reid", Envoy, March 1950)
- "...an atmosphere of heightened realism which… is intensely personal and strangely disturbing." — G.H.G. (usual signature for Tony Gray), The Irish Times, 3 October 1952
- "He was largely self taught (although, in any case, the kind of art teaching which Dublin offered at the time would merely have frustrated or enraged him)" — Brian Fallon, "Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
- "In the late forties and early fifties, there was a house in Lower Baggot Street, where rooms could be rented by the day or night for lectures, meetings, or for any other lawful purpose. Patrick Swift, the artist, had a flat in this house." — Brendan Behan, Interviews and Recollections, Volume 1, E. H. Mikhail (editor), Gill and Macmillan (1982), p. 41 Google Books
- During this period he shared his board with his then girlfriend, the American poet Claire McAllister, Anthony Cronin and John S. Beckett, Cousin of Samuel. Cronin: "John was Sam’s uncle James’s son, so he and Sam were first cousins, though in terms of age they could well have been uncle and nephew. John was a composer, a pianist and a harpsichordist. Portly and dark, he was quite unlike Sam in appearance but, as an artist himself and with a knowledge of painting as well as books and music, he was closer to him in spirit than the rest of the family. In Dublin he belonged to a circle which included Brendan Behan and Patrick Swift as well as the present writer." (Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, HarperCollins, 1996, p. 453)
- "Freud had already shown in London and Paris when he came to Dublin in 1948 [most likely when Swift and Freud first met], partly on a pilgrimage to Jack B Yeats, who had just enjoyed a retrospective at the Tate; and whom Freud declared the greatest living painter… Freud seemed closest to artist Paddy Swift… In September 1951 Kitty Garman wrote to her mother… She mentions Freud working on a painting in Paddy Swift’s Hatch Street studio, Dead Cock’s Head 1951, painted on the same red velvet chair as Swift’s Woodcock 1951." — "Lucian Freud: Prophet of Discomfort", Mic Moroney, Irish Arts Review link; "He had met Freud by 1949... My grasp of chronology is not always accurate, but certainly the acquaintance was well-developed by 1950 when we shared the ground-floor of a house in Hatch Street together. Lucian, who was staying in Ireland, used to come around in the mornings to paint, so that sometimes when I would surface around ten or eleven I would find them both at work in the studio next door." — Anthony Cronin, Patrick Swift 1927-83, 1993 IMMA Retrospective Catalogue. Freud's visits in the fifties coincided with his courtship of Lady Caroline Blackwood. Photographs by Daniel Farson from this period include Freud, Swift and Behan in Dublin in 1952(artprice.com link).
- "Yet, while Swift may seem a rara avis in this artistic climate, he was less isolated in Irish art than he appears today... he belonged — insofar as a man so individualistic can belong to any specific trend — to a tendency which showed itself in the Living Art exhibitions of the early 1950s. It was in this context that Swift first made his mark, even before Waddington took him up." — Brian Fallon (critic), "Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001; "Patrick Swift had graduated from the National College of Art and immediately established himself as a significant painter with work shown at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1950. In addition to painting, he had wide intellectual and literary interests." — Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist, Denis Sampson, Oxford University Press, 2012
- Monday, 20 Oct. 1952 (1952-10-20). "Art: Life with a Shillelagh". TIME. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- "A motif of Swift's work at this time was his bird imagery, which appeared to him to have symbolic overtones, and may even have been a subtle form of self-portraiture. Certainly Seamus Kelly, in his 'Quidnunc' column a few days after the Waddington opening, noted that the artist himself resembled one of his own birds — beaknosed, sharp-eyed, wiry, with a kind of nervous, intense presence. The self-portrait mentioned bears this out, with its questioning, almost withdrawn look. This is the typical Irish artist-intellectual of the post-war years..." — Brian Fallon (critic), "Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
- "From early on Swift was associated with literary magazines..." — Brian Fallon, "The fall and rise of Patrick Swift", The Irish Times, 11 June 1992
- "Nano Reid", by Patrick Swift, Envoy, March 1950;article
- Trespassers: A Memoir, Julia O'Faolain, Faber and Faber (2012), pp.128-130
- Beckett had an extract from Watt appear in Envoy in 1950. Following his mother's funeral Beckett spent the afternoon with Swift in McDaid's, later to be joined by the rowdy Kavanagh & O'Nolan (Gandon Editions Biography, 1993). Beckett was later to contribute to X Magazine with "L'Image", an extract from an early, variant version of Comment c'est and the first appearance of the novel in any form ("'L’Image', X: A Quarterly Review, Vol. I, No. 1, November 1959. This excerpt from Comment c’est is an early, variant version taken from Part I and is the first appearance of the novel in any form. A corrected carbon of the typescript submitted to the review is included with Typescript II of "Comment c’est" and represents an intermediate stage between the first and second typescripts". —Beckett Exhibition Harry Ransom Centre University of Texas at Austin)
- "A Patrick Swift portrait (possibly Beckett)" — "Irish art market springs to life", Niall Falon, The Irish Times, 1 June 1991.
- Swift encouraged McGuire to paint: "...his brand of mannered exactitude was a great influence on the young Edward McGuire" — Aidan Dunne, "The lost hope of Irish art", The Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1993; "McGuire’s starting point as an artist was Swift’s work, a fact which he himself repeatedly acknowledged" — Brian Fallon, "The fall and rise of Patrick Swift", The Irish Times, 11 June 1992; "It may have been in some seedy, arty Soho pub that Edward met the Irish painter Patrick Swift... Swift’s work is currently neglected but I have little doubt that it was the biggest factor in forming Edward’s own style, and Anthony Cronin agrees with me... [Edward’s widow, Sally, says] that he admitted the debt himself: ‘he always said that it was Swift who put him on the right road’. But exactly where they first met is impossible to say; both men are dead and Swift’s widow, Mrs Oonagh Swift, says she does not know the details of her late husband’s early life [-p.41]... [Cronin] is certain, however, that Freud came regularly in the summer of 1951, or possibly 1952, to a studio Patrick Swift had in Hatch Street. Is it possible that Edward had met Swift as early as this, and if so, did he encounter Freud there? [-p. 47]... His debt to Lucian Freud has been stressed, but the debt to Patrick Swift is less known, though Edward told Harriet Cooke in an interview for The Irish Times (17 April 1978): ‘Patrick Swift was instrumental in my starting to paint; Patrick Swift and Lucian Freud, they were both people I was in sympathy with.’[-p.73]" — Edward McGuire - RHA, Brian Fallon, Irish Academic Press, 1991
- Sister of the artist John Ryan and the Irish actress Kathleen Ryan; formerly married to Alexis Guedroitz with whom she had a daughter, Ania Guédroïtz)
- Katherine Swift
- He freelanced in London in the late 1940s and in the early 1950s he was a frequent visitor to London, occasionally staying with Freud
- The house at Westbourne Terrace became a "mini-Soho": " The Flat at 9 Westbourne Terrace was itself a mini-Soho" — Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Gill & Macmillan, 2001; "On many occasions through the early Sixties, writers and painters such as David Gascoyne, Paddy Kavanagh, Roberts MacBryde and Colquhoun and Paddy Swift would gather at Westbourne Terrace in Paddington, our family home at that time. They came for editorial discussions about their poetry magazine, X." — "Christopher Barker on his parents, George Barker and Elizabeth Smart| Books | The Observer". London: Guardian. 2006-08-20. Retrieved 2009-12-01.; "In London Swift, almost inevitably, moved into the Soho bohemia which included Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, George Barker, W.S. Graham, John Minton, William Crozier" — "The fall and rise of Patrick Swift", Brian Fallon, The Irish Times, 11 June 1992
- Brian Fallon (critic), "Patrick Swift And Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
- "...his ability to communicate certain truths on what one senses to be a deeply spiritual level. It is perhaps this quality in his work which links Swift with the world of poetry and poets. Apart from close family members, poets were almost exclusively subjects of his portraits; the series of poet portraits shown at IMMA [1993 Retrospective] are quite exceptional by any standards and must place him among the very best Irish painters of the twentieth century." — Wanda Ryan Smolin (art historian and writer) in the Irish Arts Review 1994
- Brian Fallon, "Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: an Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001
- He instructed in the restoration of a 17th-century building that today is the O Leão de Porches restaurant, designing the interior; he designed the Rouxinol restaurant in Monchique; the original building and entrance to the International School of the Algarve, which Swift was instrumental in founding; his house on the cliffs outside Carvoeiro; numerous buildings in Algarve display hand-crafted ornamental plasterwork by Swift, akin to pargeting or relief in cement, generally depicting birds, animals and foliage.
- "He moved to London, a melting pot of cultural and artistic ideas. At home in 'the Bohemian jungle of Soho', he partook of artistic and, always, literary life." — Aidan Dunne, "The lost hope of Irish art", The Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1993
- "From early on Swift was associated with literary magazines, wrote for them and even co-edited — with David Wright — the literary periodical X, which was launched in London in 1959 and ran until 1961. Not much of a run, perhaps, but it had a remarkably distinguished list of contributors, including Beckett and Giacometti ..." — "The fall and rise of Patrick Swift", Brian Fallon, The Irish Times, 11 June 1992
- David Wright's Introduction to An Anthology from X (Oxford University Press, 1988)
- O’Mara, Veronica (1993). Ps…of Course, Patrick Swift 1927-83. Dublin: Gandon Books.
- Swift believed in Kavanagh and promoted him. John Ryan:"Swift, in fact, made a decided impact on Kavanagh. It is hard to believe now that it was mainly a cultural impact and that he actually changed the older man's entire approach to poetry." (Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions, 1993) Swift was responsible for Kavanagh having 19 poems published in the London-based literary magazine, Nimbus, in 1956, which proved to be the turning point in Kavanagh's career; his next volume of verse, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling, was to be directly linked to the mini-collection in Nimbus. Antoinette Quinn (Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Gill & Macmillan, 2001): "Publication there [in Nimbus] was to prove a turning point … The publication of his next volume of verse, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling, was to be directly linked to the mini-collection in Nimbus, and his Collected Poems (1964)". David Wright (then editor of Nimbus) in his introduction to An Anthology from X (OUP, 1988): "These poems [19 of Kavanagh's poems were published] had been posted to me by Swift, whose brother James had invaded the poet's flat in Dublin, gathered up the trampled manuscripts scattered about the floor, and had them sorted, typed, and bound. One of the carbon copies was sent to me." Antoinette Quinn (Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography), however, says that the idea of Jimmy Swift invading the poet's flat is a myth. Quinn states that Kavanagh had a typescript rejected by Macmillan's ("Macmillan's rejection had left him very downcast") and that subsequently Swift, on one of his trips to Dublin, "was invited to peruse the contents and decided that the poems should be published. He had to return to London… but persuaded Kavanagh to entrust the precious typescript to his brother, Jimmy, to have three copies professionally typed up...[Jimmy,] acting under his brothers instructions... sent one copy each to David Wright and Martin Green in London" (Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2001, pp. 350-351). Wright's version of events is, no doubt, the story put out by Swift himself, and one which would not have displeased Kavanagh. Swift was also instrumental in the publication of Kavanagh's Collected Poems (1964). Martin Green (who put together the collection for MacGibbon and Kee in 1964): "It was following the suggestion of the painter Patrick Swift and the poet Anthony Cronin that the publication came about."(Martin Green in a letter to The Guardian, 2005; see also Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, Antoinette Quinn, Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2001, p. 359.) Kavanagh would often stay with Swift and his family at 9 Westbourne Terrace. Regarding their friendship, Antoinette Quinn says, "Swift believed in his genius and indulged him and... the older man... came to lean on Swift as a beloved nephew."(Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, p: 297) Kavanagh would often stay with Swift and his family at 9 Westbourne Terrace: "In London he generally stayed with the Swifts" (Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography).
- For Swift’s involvement with McGahern in getting his first novel published see Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist by Denis Sampson (OUP, 2012)
- "The End or the Beginning of Love", X, Vol. II, No. I ( March 1961). An extract from McGahern’s first novel, The End or the Beginning of Love. The novel was never published. After his visit to London McGahern decided to re-worked it into two novels: The Barracks (1963) and The Dark (1965). See Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist, Denis Sampson (OUP, 2012)
- For Martin Green Swift was something of a catalyst: "It was he, together with Tony Cronin, who initially put up the idea of bringing together Kavanagh's poems for the Collected Poems… Paddy Swift had a catalytic enthusiasm that ignited a response elsewhere. I remember being introduced by him to John McGahern who was first published in X magazine … which I recommended for publication but was overruled ... It was he who brought to my attention the Charles Sisson version of Catullus, which I subsequently published … It was he who helped to find a publisher for Brian Higgins ..." (Patrick Swift 1927-83, Gandon Editions, 1993)
- Brian Fallon, "Patrick Swift and Irish Art" (1993), Patrick Swift: an Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001 (First published: Portfolio 2 - Modern Irish Arts Review, Gandon Editions, Cork, 1993)
- Patrick Swift 1927-83 - PS...of course, Veronica O'Mara (ed.), Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 1993. In 1984 Swift's widow, Oonagh, organized a gathering of his friends in the Algarve where it was decided that John Ryan would put together a book to commemorate Swift's life. Ryan, however, had been suffering from ill health for many years and passed away in 1992 before completing his commemorative book.
- "The lost hope of Irish art ... belated recognition for Patrick Swift, a painter born out of his time." — Aidan Dunne, "The lost hope of Irish art", Sunday Tribune, 28 November 1993; "His exhibition at the Royal Hospital quite simply bowled me over, and I realised at once that I was looking at pictures by probably the most formidable Irish artist of this century — perhaps including Jack Yeats... Some of the strongest contemporary portraits I have ever seen." — Derek Hill in a letter to The Irish Times, 24 Jan 1994; "A man who made his paintings talk... He may well be one of the greatest of Irish painters. When the dust has settled and the critics have had their say, the paintings will speak for themselves... His paintings hold you and address you in a language so intimate and disturbingly personal that even if you don't know much about art you are aware you have been moved at a visceral level." — The Sunday Business Post, 20 Feb 1994; "Probably no painter here since the Literary Revival has had a more central role in cultural life in the broader sense. And not only in Ireland either; Swift was a seminal figure in London too, even if the general public knew very little of him... There can be few Irishmen of his epoch, whether poets or painters or novelists, who are of such biographical interest and who touched their age at so many key points." — Brian Fallon, "The legacy of Patrick Swift", The Irish Times, 2 Dec 1993; "The Irish public was astonished when a major Swift exhibition was mounted in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1994." — Modern Art in Ireland, Dorothy Walker, The Lilliput Press, 1997, p. 43; "Certainly, from now onwards, no one can write Patrick Swift out of Irish art history." — Brian Fallon,The Irish Times, 8 Dec 1993
- Rotherham Roadshow, Sunday 3 October 2004 ( Image) The BBC art expert, Stephen Somerville, was highly praising of his work, saying simply of a London tree painting: "I love it". The father of the lady who brought Swift's work to the ARS seems to have been a sort of patron of Swift’s.
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