Welcome to this month’s Oil Painting Blog for Beginners. [*]
In celebration of International Women’s Day and following our theme of ‘the Irish Artist’, this month we are taking a helicopter view of two of our twentieth century Women Irish Artists, including one of my absolute favourites, Mary Swanzy, and the revolutionary artist, May Guinness.
Each of these artists deserves a full blog and indeed many books dedicated to them. However, through this short blog, I hope to introduce or reintroduce you to their work, which luckily can be seen in our galleries including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin and the Crawford Gallery, Cork.
Self-portrait with a candle
The Modern Museum of Irish Art (IMMA) describes Swanzy, as being: –
“…a unique Irish artist. Her level of achievement, world travel and original thinking is unmatched in Irish art… She witnessed the birth of Modern art in Paris before the First World War and her work rapidly evolved through the different styles of the day, each of them interpreted and transformed by her in a highly personal way.” 
I was first introduced to Mary Swanzy’s artwork, after purchasing ‘Analysing Cubism’ published by the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork . Somehow over the years, the book must have kept catching my eye, as unbeknownst to myself, I’ve managed to purchase three more copies of it.
Then, in 2018/19, I got to see her works in person at her first retrospective in 50 years which was held in IMMA, Kilmainham, Co. Dublin. To this day, it was, in my opinion, one of the very best exhibitions, that I have seen to date. Everything was just exquisite, the artwork, framing, hanging and overall curation. I visited the exhibition several times that spring.
A few Key Facts about Swanzy: –
Key Fact 1: She was born in Dublin to Sir Henry Swanzy, a distinguished ophthalmic (eye) surgeon and was sent to finishing school at Versailles in France and then to Freiburg in Germany. 
Key Fact 2: She studied the paintings of Cezanne, Gauguin, Braque, Derain, Matisse and Picasso  and in turn explored the various art movements of that time, including Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism.
Key Fact 3: Between 1919 – 1924, following the death of her parents, she travelled to eastern Europe, Samoa, Hawaii, and California.  According to Sean Kissane, curator of her retrospective exhibition Voyages at IMMA:
“There are only three modern artists that we know of who went to the South Seas, first and most famously, Paul Gaugin, Emile Nolde and the third is Mary Swanzy.” 
Fact Four: Some things are hopefully changing – I still think that they are way too slow as I imagine, many of us, can resonate with Mary’s words: –
“… if I had been born Henry instead of Mary my life would have been very different…”