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.
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.”
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.
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."
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