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Evie Hone / Mainie Jellett

Inseparable in their Parisian adventures, Evie Hone (Dublin, 1894 – 1955) and Mainie Jellett (Dublin, 1897 – 1944) were two of a long line of women artists to study in the French capital in the late 19th and the first part of the 20th century. With some exceptions, these ladies came from well-off Protestant families able to pay for the artistic education of their female progeny on the European mainland. Both Hone and Jellett, for example, came of solid Anglo-Irish stock. Hone was related to the great landscape painter, Nathaniel Hone the Younger, while Jellett’s father was a high-profile member of the Irish Bar and a Unionist member of the British parliament.

In his review of an exhibition of Irish women artists held in Dublin in 1987, Brian de Breffney noted that “of one hundred and forty deceased women artists noticed, no less than at least one hundred and twenty were Protestants.”  Helen Mabel Trevor (Longbrikland, Co. Down, 1891—Paris, 1900) was a prime example of the breed. She studied in a number of studios in Paris, including that of Carolus-Duran, where Frank O’Meara and Roderic O’Conor were to follow, before spending several years in Italy. She returned to Paris in 1889 and died of a heart attack at 53, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th arrondissement) 11 years later.

Jellett 3 Julian
 The Académie Julian, rue Dragon
Other female artists of the same race that came to Paris to study included Lady Beatrice Glenavy (born in Dublin, 1881); Constance Gore-Booth (London, 1868); May Guinness (Dublin, 1863); Sarah Purser (Dún Laoghaire, 1848); Georgina Moutray-Kyle (Belfast, 1896); Joan Jameson (London, 1892); Edith Somerville (Corfu, Greece, 1858), who achieved greater fame as an author, writing ‘Some Experiences of an Irish RM’ series of books together with Martin Ross; and Mary Swanzy (Dublin, 1882 – London, 1978), described by critic Brian Fallon as “probably Ireland’s best woman painter and yet another product of Anglo-Ireland nurtured by France”.

Altogether, these female artists, in the view of Brian Fallon, “make up…a very remarkable generation of women, all of whom were authentic personalities in their own right as well as influential and active in many fields. They were, in fact, Ireland’s emancipated generation, independent-minded and sometimes vocally feminist—notable organisers and crusaders for various causes, sometimes to the extent of becoming sheer busybodies and meddlers in almost everything around them.”

Jellett 2 chaumiere 14
 Académie de la Grande Chaumière
These ladies studied in a rather narrow range of private art academies in Paris that catered for foreign students. Arguably the most well known of these places was the Académie Julian (where Gore-Booth, Purser, as well as Eileen Gray, Paul Henry and John Lavery all studied), which accepted female student artists starting in 1880. The Académie Julian operated out of a series of locations, including 27 Passage des Panoramas (2nd arrondissement) and 51, rue Vivienne (2nd arrondissement), but most durably at 31, rue du Dragon (6th arrondissement). Another high-profile art school was the Académie Colarossi (Lady Glenavy, Eileen Gray, Moutray-Kyle, Sommerville and Swanzy), which was at 10, rue de la Grande Chaumière (6th arrondissement), right beside the Académie de la Grande Chaumière at 14, rue de la Grande Chaumière. Mary Swanzy studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière as did the Irish-Jewish artist Stella Steyn. The latter was a friend of Patrick Tuohy who introduced her to James Joyce, who in turn asked her to produce illustrations for the first edition of Finnegan’s Wake).

Many of these ladies elected living quarters in this same part of Montparnasse, including Constance Gore-Booth, who met her Polish husband, Count Casimir Dunin-Markievicz, while she was living at 17, rue Campagne Première (14th arrondissement), another street redolent with artistic associations. On the same side of the street, at number 11, the author James Stephens kept a flat from 1913 until his death in 1950.

Jellett 1 Gore Booth
 Gore-Booth's abode, rue Campagne Première
Credited with introducing Cubism and French modernism into Ireland, Hone and Jellett followed a somewhat less conventional path than other Irish artists in Paris. Hone went to Paris in 1920 to study under André Lhote, who had a studio in Montparnasse (rue Odessa, 14th arrondissement). Mainie Jellett, who Hone had met in London in 1917, joined her a few months later. They both quickly outgrew Lhote (described by Edith Somerville as a (Cu-beast") and instead hassled another Cubist painter called Albert Gleizes to accept them as his students. The latter, trying to find his own artistic direction, was initially reluctant to teach at all. But the two Irish girls persisted and he finally admitted them to his art studio at 7, rue Thomas Lemaître in Puteaux in the inner suburbs of Paris (atelier no longer exists). Gleizes himself was an interesting character. Thanks to his marriage to the daughter of a minister in the French government, he managed to avoid the trenches in World War 1. Extremely well connected, Gleizes' (re)conversion to Catholicism around 1917 and his advocacy of handcraft and tradition as an antidote to capitalism and mass production no doubt influenced the thinking of Hone and Jellett.

Years later, Gleizes himself remembered trying to discourage Hone and Jellett when they turned up on his doorstep one day in 1921.“Their tenacity, expressed in a soft voice, appeared formidable and increased my desire to shy away,” he wrote. “But after a rather long talk from which I constantly tried to extricate myself while they pressed me ever more insistently, I had to surrender  and reluctantly decide to let them ‘work’.”

Over the next decade, Hone and Jellett visited Gleizes once or twice a year in Paris or in the artistic community he founded in Ardèche to further explore the artist’s avant-garde concepts. In the Ardèche, they would have met the Australian potter Anne Dangar, who had also been a pupil of André Lhote. For his part, Gleizes appreciated the input of his Irish pupils who helped him to better define his own artistic ideas. Alas, back in Ireland, not all critics were enamoured with the Irish womens' epousal of Gleizes' version of late cubism. AE (George Russell) described Jellett as "a late victim to Cubism in some sub-section of this malaria", while Cyril Barrett believed that "it was a disaster both for her own art and for Irish Modernism that she went to Gleizes."


Select Bibliography

Journeys through line and colour – 40 Irish women artists of the 20th century’
Paul Finucane and Maria Connolly, 2010

Pierre Albert, 1990

"Mainie Jellett and Irish Modernism", Cyril Barrett, in Irish Arts Review Yearbook, 1993