1942, oil on linen, 30.5 x 40.5 cm (gift of Dr R Best in 1959)
Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) was born in Dublin to a wealthy family and grew up in privileged circumstances in Georgian Dublin. Her first art education was received at the Dublin School of Art. She moved to Paris in 1905, as was the fashion amongst committed artists at the time, where she was soon exhibiting in the company of the cubist Picasso, Braque and De Vlaminck.
Swanzy does not betray loyalties towards any particular style or movement. She was a dedicated modernist, and explored painting in a variety of different ways. Not only was she influenced by an eclectic mix of styles, her travels throughout Europe, the Samoan Islands and the US exposed her to such a variety in the human experience that it is hardly surprising to find her exploring different modes of expression.
Conflagration is a fine example of her stylistic diversity. The mountains are represented from several different points of view at the same time. This perceptual technique, called ‘simultaneity’, was devised by Paul Cézanne and later more fully exploited by the Cubist artists. There are hints of Impressionism in her use of brushstroke and choice of palette. In contrast to the rolling green fields and mountains of Ireland represented in many of the paintings in the collection, Swanzy’s landscape looks exotic. It is a landscape of her rich imagination. If you compare this work to her other paintings in this collection – Portrait of Miss Russell and From the Sea- you will notice her fearless experimentation.