independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

On a London street, on an autumn day ...

Staring straight ahead through his trademark spectacles, there can be no mistaking that these unsmiling eyes belong to one of our literary greats. Patrick Kavanagh painted by Patrick Swift is just one of the hidden gems from the unexpected collection of our own CIE. It features in a touring exhibition on display in Dundalk Institute of Technology until the end of November.

Co-funded by the Arts Council, the collection was predominantly acquired in the 1960s and features important works by artists such as Louis le Brocquy, Norah McGuinness, Maurice McGonigal, Gerard Dillon and William Leech, including Leech's A Cottage Window which hasn't been seen in public since 1949.

Swift first met Patrick Kavanagh in Dublin during the late '40s, introduced by their mutual friend, the artist and writer John Ryan. Despite a significant difference in their ages, the pair immediately connected, with Swift persuading Kavanagh to read W H. Auden, who soon became a lasting influence on Kavanagh's own work.

Soho Swift moved to London in 1959, mixing with a bohemian Soho set that included Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. And Freud's influence is obvious in much of Swift's early work including this portrait painted in London in 1961, one of a number of portraits of Kavanagh painted by Swift over the decades.

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