Artist Biographies

Mainie Jellett 1897 - 1944

Abstract and figure painter, Mary Harriet Jellett was born in 1897 at 36 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin and acquired the ‘pet’ name of Mainie. Educated at home, she took lessons in watercolour, later working at the studio of Sarah Cecilia Harrison and by the age of 14, she had already been painting in France. In 1914 she entered the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where Sir William was teaching at this time, before moving to London in 1917, to study under Walter Sickert at the Westminister Art School. She exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1918 to 1921. In 1919 she returned to Dublin, resuming her art studies, travelling in 1920 to Avila, Spain with Evie Hone, whom she met at Westminister Art School, becoming lifelong friends. She painted in Donegal in 1919 and in 1920, she won the Taylor Scholarship and in this same year, held a joint exhibition in Dublin with Lilian Davidson. In February 1921 Jellett and Hone travelled to Paris, where they worked in Andre Lhote’s studio and here she learnt to use natural form and colour, deciding with Evie Hone that she wanted to go further into the abstraction of Cubism. During her intervals in Dublin, she continued private art teaching at Fitzwilliam Square, at times returning herself to representational painting, and Jack Hanlon and Sylvia Cooke Collis were among her students. W.B.Yeats opened an exhibition for Jellett in Dublin in 1926 and she continued to exhibit through the 1920’s both in Dublin, Paris & Versailles, including the Salon des Vrais Independants in 1923, in London in 1925 and at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928. She resumed exhibiting at the RHA in 1930, continuing each year until 1937, while also exhibiting through the 1930’s at the Watercolour Society of Ireland, showing nearly 50 works until 1943. Accomplished as a pianist, she involved herself with stage set design at the Gate Theatre, designed for a ballet production at the Gaiety Theatre and also designed rugs, which sold at some of her exhibitions. She travelled to Amsterdam & Antwerp with Evie Hone, she exhibited, she lectured in Dublin & Cork, she broadcast special talks for Radio Éireann, wrote articles and opened exhibitions of younger painters. Mainie Jellet spent several painting holidays on Achill Island with her friend Stella Frost and the painting in this auction likely dates to these trips to the West of Ireland. Meanwhile she was commissioned by the Irish Government to decorate the Irish Pavilions at the Glasgow Exhibition in 1938 and the New York World’s Fair in 1939. This was also the year of her last visit to France and in 1940 began her involvement with the White Stag Group in Dublin and used her influence to help artists from abroad, who had arrived in Dublin, with the outbreak of war. Her Work is included in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, including The Madonna of Éire and Achill Horses and the National Gallery of Ireland has more than 200 of her drawings. As a person, Mainie Jellett was quiet, with a modest authority, kindness and an intense passion for painting. Her last finished painting was Western Procession in 1943, which was exhibited at the inaugural exhibition of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. Many memorial exhibitions were held in her honour at the Dublin Painters Club, the Victor Waddington Galleries, at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin. Her work is included in prestigious national collections throughout Ireland and she is undoubtedly one of the most important Irish Artists of the 20th Century.
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