This exhibition will bring a new focus to one of Ireland’s most popular and important artists, Mainie Jellett.

A well-known figure for frequent Ulster Museum visitors, through the painting collection, this exhibition will explore works that have not been seen before.

Abstract and study (1922) Mainie Jellett (1897-1944) oil on canvas BELUM.U2296 ©National Museums NI
Painting (1938) Mainie Jellett (1897-1944) oil on canvas BELUM.U325 ©National Museums NI

 As Anne Crookshank, former curator of art at the Ulster Museum, said: “It was the women, not the mainly conservative male artists of the twenties and thirties, who brought Ireland into the 20th century.” This is thanks to the work of many women – artists, academics, curators etc. – but there is one woman who can be celebrated as the driving force behind modernism in Ireland.

Mainie Jellett’s strong and energetic paintings are a true representation of her character. She tirelessly promoted abstract art, and wider modernism, through multiple means and established a legacy by founding the Irish Exhibition of Living Art.

Her work went through three self-described ‘revolutions’, each with an interpretation of the figure at its heart. It was her third revolution when she adopted the system of translation and rotation, a method of shifting and overlapping geometric shapes through different stages to reach the final image.

Translation and rotation were the guiding principles of her work, the methods by which she created her abstract paintings. But they were also the mechanisms of her art, as she translated modern art for an Irish audience, rotating traditional images that were familiar (religious allegory, the figure, the landscape of the west) into new forms.

Studies for a Composition, representing Translation and Rotation (1920s) Mainie Jellett (1897-1944) pencil on paper BELUM.U2814 view 3 ©National Museums NI