Gerard Dillon (1916-1971) GIRL HIDING

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Gerard Dillon (1916-1971) GIRL HIDING

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Auction Date:2005 Apr 26 @ 18:00 (UTC)
Location:Dublin, Ireland
Gerard Dillon (1916-1971) GIRL HIDING<BR>signed lower right; inscribed on reverse<BR>oil on panel<BR>41 by 51cm., 16 by 20in.<BR><BR>Provenance:<BR>Piccadilly Gallery, London;<BR>Whence purchased in 1955 by Mr and Mrs Stoddard, California;<BR>Sold privately in 1988 by Mrs Stoddard to the present owner<BR><BR>Exhibited:<BR>’George Campbell and Gerard Dillon’, Piccadilly Gallery, London, [June 1955], catalogue no. 50<BR><BR>Girl Hiding was painted in 1954-55 at a vital turning point in Dillon’s career, as he was completing his impressive series of Connemara-inspired idylls, little short of a year before turning to experiment with abstraction. As such it is a synthesis of many of the themes in his earlier works.<BR><BR>One such motif, instantly recognisable from earlier works, is that of the men on horseback in the right-hand side of the composition. From their ruddy complexions and simple jerkins it is apparent that these are young Connemara men, possibly Islanders such as their brothers on horseback from Omey Island, whom Dillon painted in three works dating to 1950-51. The simple frieze of horses and men recalls the naïve patterning found in such works as Omey Island Strand (private collection), where islanders gather on the local strand to watch a horse race.<BR><BR>On the left-hand side of Girl Hiding, the prominent placing of the girl recalls the Italian peasant woman in Memory Pool of 1949 (formerly in the GPA collection, Shannon). Both women fill the foreground of the composition and it is their thoughts and motives which immediately engage the viewer. In the case of Memory Pool, those thoughts are evidently of the young man whose reflection appears in the pool beyond, prompting a pensive, introspective expression on the woman’s face. In contrast, the main figure in Girl Hiding glances coyly over her shoulder at two men on horseback in the distance, suggesting a desire to interact with them that is at odds with her concealment behind the tree. The crooked wooden fence reinforces her separateness from the Island men.<BR><BR>Dillon provides two further clues as to the meaning of his work. The first is the bird perched on the girl’s hand, a familiar device in many of Dillon’s works. The trust apparent between girl and bird recalls St Francis, who had a special affinity with all wild creatures. Dillon had exhibited a painting of St Francis in 1951 (Leicestershire Collection for Schools and Colleges) and as James White noted, “Celticised him with the rhythms of his brush strokes and the birds and animals with which he surrounded him”1. The St Francis painting had an element of autobiography, in that Dillon had been christened Francis Gerard, and thus “the idea of treating St Francis with illustrations of Irish origin no doubt appealed to his sense of humour”2. The bird might therefore be communing with none other than the artist himself.<BR><BR>The second clue is in the depiction of the hiding girl. She is portrayed in a simple gown, as is frequently used for sibyls or muses in classical iconography, suggesting she is a symbol – possibly for the arts? The bowl of fruit she holds is painted in a strikingly modernist manner with disregard for traditional perspective, and as such reinforces the idea of art – modern art – in this seemingly timeless western landscape. She therefore represents the arts, particularly the modern arts, which Dillon so esteemed.<BR><BR>In sum, these elements may be read as an allegory of the artist’s place in western Ireland. Dillon had already commented on his outsider position in the well-known work Island People of 1950 (Crawford Gallery of Art, Cork), in which the figure of the artist trudges along a road, watched by two locals who are separated from him by their clothes, habits and surroundings. In Girl Hiding, Dillon uses a beautiful woman or muse as his stand-in as ‘the outsider’. In doing so he expresses his desire to be part of the Islander community, yet acknowledges his special role as observer and chronicler of that way of life.<BR><BR>Girl Hiding has not been seen publicly since it hung in Dillon’s solo exhibition in London in 1955 (a copy of the exhibition catalogue is included with the work). It was purchased from there by the previous owners the Stoddards, an American couple who were friendly with Dillon, George Campbell, Arthur Power and other Irish artists, and the work has remained in private hands ever since.<BR><BR>1 James White, Gerard Dillon: An Illustrated Biography, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1994, page 58.<BR>2 Ibid.<BR>