Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

Abstract Composition
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Abstract Composition
c. 1935
Irish School
Gouache on paper
40cm x 20cm


Sylvia Cooke-Collis bequest, 1974

Mainie Jellett
Irish School

In twentieth-century Irish Art, the names of Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone are closley linked. Jellet was born into a middle-class dublin house-hold on Fitzwilliam Square. Her father, William Morgan Jellett, was a leading Barrister, and her mother, Janet Stokes, a talented musician. While studying at the Westminster School of Art in London in 1917, she met Evie Hone, and together the two Irish art students went to Paris in 1921 to study with the cubists painters André Lhote and Albert Gleizes. their association with Gleizes lasted over a decade, and their teacher seems to have at least as much influenced by the two Irishwomen as they were by him. Gleizes was an important theorist of the Cubist movement, and his 1912 book Du Cubisme was, for many years, the most important theoretical study of the movement begun by Picasso and Braque in Paris in 1907.

In the years following 1930, Jellet developed a rather severe linear style in which geometric colour patterns predominated. Some of her works were insspired by religious paintings by Fra Angelico and other artists. Jellett transalted the general elements of these paintings, but rendered them in an almost completely abstract way. This composing of compositional elements was in keeping with her notion of painting as primarily being the covering of a canvas with harmonious and rythemic forms in closley co-ordinated colours. From 1932, Jellett began to exhibit work in Paris with Abstraction-Creation: Art Non-Figuratif, a group of abstract painters formed the previous year. The painitng from the Crawford Collection may have been one of thoses works exhibited with Abstract-Creation in Paris in 1933. Its composition can be interpreted as three figures rising from a central base, and may represent the Holy Family or the Trinity. Its composition also follows a formula developed by Jellett. Under Gleizes tuition, she had evolved a system of painitng which involved placing a number of ractangles concentrically on the canvas. There were 'rotated' and 'translated', inspiring the resulting composition.

The debate about Jellett's importance began when she first exhibited her Cubist painitngs at the Dublin Painter's 1943 autumn exhibition and has continued ever since. Jellett's work, from the outset, was disparaged by George Russell and other critics, but she has also been most ably defended, most recently by Bruce Arnold, who is emphatic that Jellett's importance to the development of Irish art has yet to be fully realised. In the final analysis however, it is likley that Jellett's position in Irish art will remain at more or less its present level, that of an important and dedicated artist but one who seems fated to remain underappreciated.