© The Artist's Estate
Mary Swanzy, Irish, 1882-1978
Title: Clown by Candlelight
Date: 1942-1943
Medium: Oil on wood
14 x 19 cm
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Mr R. Best, 1959
Object Number: NGI.1415
DescriptionThis tiny picture was painted in Dublin during the Second World War. Swanzy's home in London had been bombed, and she moved back to Ireland for a time. The clown sits at a table, head in hands, gazing thoughfully at a candle, whose flickering light casts shadows on the wall behind. He seems lonely and withdrawn. The subject of the clown as a sad figure had already been used by artists such as Watteau, Rouault and Picasso. Swanzy's clownis her visual response to the troubled mid-war period, and to her own hopes and uncertainty about the fututre. During the war years her works were full of foreboding and disaster. She filled canvases with tortured figures, in attitudes of despair , which represent the effects of war on the psyche.

The art of Mary Swanzy is original and unconventional. Like a number of other gifted women artists, she was a champion of modernism in Irish art. After training in Dublin, she visited Paris where she was influenced by Post-Impressionism and Cubism. During her long career she travelled widely throughout central Europe and later to the south Pacific.

(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2008)

ProvenanceBequeathed, Mr R. Best, 1959
Exhibition HistoryThe Irish Impressionists: Irish Artists in France and Belgium 1850-1914, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 9 October - 18 November 1984; Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1 February - 10 March 1985

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