Portrait of David Wright, Oil on Canvas, c.1960; Swift painted at least two portraits of David Wright, one in 1953 and the present picture (poor quality reproduction)

Incidentally, the Wright portrait is larger than lifesize, which enhances its effect of almost baroque monumentality.
- Brian Fallon (critic), Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001

by David Wright

I never imagined I
Should write your elegy.
I look out of the window
As you taught me to do.
All creation is grand.
Whatever is to hand
Deserves a line, praising
What is for being.

Thus at Westbourne Terrace
In long ago days
Brush in hand I'd see you
At your morning window
Transfer the thousand leaves
Of summer heavy trees
And delighting light
To another surface
Where they will not turn
With the turning season
But stay, and say
This is the mystery!
Or you would repeat
In pencil or in paint
The old stuffed pheasant too
That lived in your studio
Among jars of turps
With a visiting ghost,
Charles Baudelaire's photo.
All the eye lights on
There for delighting.
Or put it this way,
A thing of beauty
is joy perceived.
So you would give
Thanks for what is:
All art is praise.

Ah, those mornings
In many-hilled
Pombaline Lisbon:
The roads we travelled!
I do not mean
Only in Portugal-
Though now recalling
How, somewhere near
The river Guardiana
Going to Alcoutim,
We stopped the car
For, winding down
Round hills and bare,
Over no road came
The muleback riders
And blackshawled women
On foot, following
A coffin to nowhere:
Memento mori!

Or recollect
-Each of us unique-
Your head suddenly
Thrown back, oblique
Eye over the laughter:
An aslant look
As if to say
Did the joke carry? The
Underlaid irony
Over the joke?

I see now
Out of my window
Mist rising from
A leaden Eden
Drifting slowly
Under trees barely
Leaved to the ford.
Gentle and aloud
The water breaks
As white as bread
Over the under road.
On the far bank
A field with trees
Each standing naked
On a fallen dress,
Brown and gold leaves.
I might relate
How Swift my friend
Has gone, like these!
But I will not.
No cause for sadness,
You reader of Aquinas
And clear Horace.
Whom the gods love, die
Young but not easily.

C.H. Sisson by Patrick Swift, Oil, c.1960, London (poor quality reproduction)


I was not obliging in the time I gave but Paddy seemed to accommodate himself to anything. Indeed, I got the impression that, so long as he was painting, it did not matter what. In fact, it always turned out to be a tree or a poet- this secondary, and no doubt less satisfactory, subject-matter has since been eliminated, and not only, I imagine, because the supply ran out. It was as if to lie in the line of vision of that eye inevitably involved translation on to canvas. Paddy fussed about none of those things I imagined a painter who kept his reference to the external world would fuss about. He did not mind if the sitting was short, he did not mind if the times and so the light were different. He ignored the state of light, so far as I could make out, with his trees, for he started early and worked all day at them, except when a poet crossed his path. These variations were part of the nuance of reality. The finished picture would perhaps be one that captured enough of the nuance. On these matters I speculate ignorantly. The finished picture, on Paddy's account, had to be one that looked ordinary but proved in the end not to be so. I have not put it as he did. While he painted, Paddy talked about the stream of friends which flowed through his flat or whom he met in pubs. Although when painting Paddy appeared to be all eye, with the hand just doing the necessary, the conversation which ran in parallel with this performance showed a rare lucidity. - C.H. Sisson, Gandon Editions, 1993


For Patrick Swift
by C.H. Sisson

The dishes are untouched
And yet I see them all
Spread out under the moon.

Quiet which nothing spoils,
Not even appetite,
Hung on the point of wish.

Milk-white, with ruddy fruit
Only the angry heart
Is mean enough to ask.

Ice in the silver night
With the bird voices held
In silver cups, tonight.

Portrait of John Heath-Stubbs by Patrick Swift, oil, c.1960 (poor quality reproduction)


...While he painted, Paddy talked about the stream of friends which flowed through his flat or whom he met in pubs. Hugh MacDiarmid had been there one morning; I regretted not having met him... John Heath-Stubbs at that time lived under a pavement round the corner, and made tea in a cavern too obscure for any but a half-blind man. It was and is unintelligible to me that so much learning can go with so little sight. One day I arrived to find his carapace beginning to take shape on another canvas, though it was still a little while before we met. For Paddy the human character exists, I suppose; at any rate when he had finished with them his sitters had betrayed themselves...
The world evoked by Patrick Swift's conversation was the natural antithesis of the one I inhabit. In it, people put the business of being poets or painters first and other things organized themselves round that. Paddy appeared to be able to manage this while holding himself equally responsible for his family. I greatly admired the economic nonchalance of this world...
- C.H. Sisson, On the Look-Out (a partial autobiography), p.31, Carcanet Press, 1989


Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, Oil on board, c.1960.
(Reproduced image of poor quality)

View through Trees (London), Patrick Swift, 36 X 48in; Kellys Art Collection

Figure and Foliage, oil, 1954

London Plane Tree (view from his 3rd Story Studio in Westbourne Terrace?), Patrick Swift (1927-1983), dated [1956-59] on reverse, oil on canvas; 33 by 24cm

Trees at Saint Colombs ( Glebe Gallery), Patrick Swift, oil on canvas, 100 x 75 cms, 1960; Swift holidayed at Saint Colombs and left this painting as a thank you

Girl under tree (Oonagh?), Patrick Swift (1927-83), Oil, c.1954, London/Dublin (poor quality reproduction)

Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, Oil on board (poor quality reproduction)

Patrick Swift, Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, oil on hardboard (poor quality reproduction)

Kitchen still life, Patrick Swift, oil on board, 1950s (poor quality reproduction)

About Swift

Patrick Swift and Irish Art
Brian Fallon

...However, after his arrival in London his style changed, not immediately but gradually and very thoroughly. In fact, it was less a stylistic change than a transformation. From being a painter with sharp, angular outlines and a thin paint surface, he became one who 'drew with the brush', modelled in heavy, laden strokes, and, in general, daubed and dragged the paint around until it did his bidding.
Stylistically his 'first period' and 'his second period' could hardly be more different from one another, though the underlying sensibility somehow remains the same... It is dangerous, however, to generalise too much or too widely about Swift's development, since it is so inadequately chartered. He did not date or sign his work, or even give his pictures titles... and though he liked on occasion to write about other artist's work, past and present, he did not discuss his own except in the most general terms... he is a headache to write about in any but the loosest chronological terms.
One motif which he took with him to London was a love of urban views seen from a window - his studio, presumably - of old gardens and backyards, an everyday world somehow peopled with possibilities of human lives and encounters. This world existed very strongly in Dublin at the time, especially behind the tall Georgian or neo-Georgian houses of Baggot Street, Pembroke Road, Waterloo Road, and other quintessential Southside areas. It had a special appeal, or at least a special significance, to the bohemian intelligentsia of McDaid's and other literary pubs, who often lived temporarily in such places and certainly went to parties, discussions or drinking sessions in them. Just as the Soho or Camden Town of Sickert's time remains embedded in his work, so the psychological aura of the 1950s haunts Swift's paintings, as it does Lucian Freud's rather similar views from his various London studios. The milieus of McDaid's and of bohemian Soho, after all, were closely allied, and many people, including Swift, travelled from one to the other...
Swift's portraits of George Barker, Patrick Kavanagh, David Wright and others of his circle include some of his best works, and are among the finest portraits painted in Britain at this period. A deeply cultured man himself, with literary tastes, he was specially qualified to interpret in paint the complex, individualistic people who were his contemporaries or friends. Once again, his approach was basically humanist, not formalist...
Since Expressionism was not at all in favour in England (or Ireland) at this time, it is very relevant to wonder what precisely moved Swift in this direction. Partly, no doubt, his own volition, and in the virtually underground art circles he was moving in there was a certain Expressionist strain, even though it was confined to a few. Bacon, of course, is an obvious case, but Bacon's painting is sui generis, and though Swift admired him greatly, he never worked on Bacon's scale or took the technical risks he did. Bacon might be an inspiring force, but his style was inimitable and afforded no direct model to anybody. Auerbach was another artist whom Swift knew and admired and featured in X magazine when Auerbach was still little known, but his glutinously heavy paint and very individual mentality - half central European, half Londoner - were not attributes Swift could or would have imitated. I believe that the real influence behind his new style was Soutine who was being rediscovered about this time both in England and America. There is no doubt at all that Swift admired him, and in fact Soutine became something of a cult in his circle (I believe personally that Bacon himself felt his influence for a while). He was certainly an influence on Auerbach, as Robert Hughes's book on him brings out…
Underlying both early and middle-period Swift - in fact, most of his output apart from the sun-soaked, serene works of his last years - there is a basic disquiet, a quality which is obvious to the most superficial observer. Fashionable psycho-babble will look straight-away for private sources, not to say neurosis, but what we are dealing with is a metaphysic not a mere psychic knot. From the very first, there is a shadowed, and shadowy, essence in his work, and the figures and objects are often ringed with a kind of penumbral quality, almost a halo in reverse. In a sense this can be read as a kind of modern-equivalent to chiaroscuro, using the word in a deeper sense, not as a mere technical device for making a figure or still-life object stand out more... It should be remembered, however, that he was not only a painter of suburban bohemia, he was also a painter of nature... Both in Ireland and England he painted out of doors…
- Brian Fallon, taken from his essay 'Patrick Swift and Irish Art', 1993, reproduced in Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, 2001, Gandon Editions. First published: 'Patrick Swift and Irish Art', Portfolio 2 - Modern Irish Arts Review, Gandon Editions, Cork, 1993


The Sunday Tribune
The lost hope of Irish art
Aidan Dunne

...Swift studied at the NCAD in the 1940s and, after a brief spell in Paris, set to work in Dublin with his friend Lucian Freud…
He was always down to earth in his treatment and subject matter, something of a kitchen sink painter even before the term was invented…
He moved to London, a melting pot of cultural and artistic ideas. At home in “the Bohemian jungle of Soho”, he partook of artistic and, always, literary life…
Enormous changes were afoot in the art world, however. Abstraction of one kind or another dominated post war Europe. Then there were the American Abstract Expressionists. Pop art was just around the corner.
Swift saw the kind of art that he made – more, the kind of artistic world within which he dwelled – under threat as never before. He was a representational artist through and through, in the Kokoschka mould. Fidelity to visual experience above all. But he saw the mere survival of this tradition as being under threat…
Yet the record of his own work suggests that he took an unduly alarmist view of contemporary developments. His paintings, for example, often went more than halfway towards abstraction inasmuch as there is a useful distinction to be drawn between abstraction and representation at all.
He had an analytical eye and many paintings are reminiscent not only of Cézanne, whom he greatly admired, but of Mondrian (before he had restricted himself to grids), whom Swift also, suprisingly enough, had a great deal of time for...
- Aidan Dunne, The lost hope of Irish art, The Sunday Tribune, Nov 28, 1993


By Heart
Elizabeth Smart - A Life
Rosemary Sullivan

Elizabeth's life was very social. She had numerous friends in Soho as well as professional friends. She continued to meet Barker when he came up to London - he was still living with Cass. The editors of X magazine, Patrick Swift and David Wright, would meet at her flat in the beginning of the sixties to do interviews, and Elizabeth sometimes offered her drawing room as a sort of office where they would hammer out their editorials. The artist Craigie Aitchison recalled being interviewed there by Paddy Swift, and Elizabeth wrote their words down, including the bits from the pub where they adjourned afterwards... The painter Frank Auerbach remembered her coming into The French one evening, having made thirty pounds in a couple of hours writing advertising for Jaeger fashions; they went back to the Westbourne Terrace flat, and, though the pipes were frozen, she produced food and drink. He, being penniless in those days and unable to get home, had fallen asleep on a bed and awoke to find a pound note in his pocket. "This happened two or three times. She deemed it a matter of course to make sacrifices for artists," said Auerbach. Over the years there was often somebody in residence, including Robert MacBryde, Mrs Watt's son Sholto Watt, John Deakin, Michael Asquith and his second wife, Hase, or Anthony Cronin and his wife.
- Rosemary Sullivan, By Heart, Elizabeth Smart - A Life, p.274, Flamingo, London, 1992


Dublin Oil - Dublin Watercolour/ Ink - Italy - Oakridge/ Ashwell Watercolour - Oakridge/ Ashwell Oil - London Oil - London Watercolour/ Ink - France - Algarve Oil - Algarve Watercolour/ Ink - Self-Portraits - Trees - Portraits I - Portraits II - Porches Pottery - Books - Misc - Algarve Studio
Note: many of the reproductions displayed here are of poor quality

By Swift
Nano Reid - Some notes on Caravaggio - Italian Report - The Artist Speaks - X magazine - RHA Exhibition 1951 - Eça de Queiroz & Fernando Pessoa - The Portuguese Enigma - Notebooks - All

About Swift
Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal - IMMA 1993 Retrospective Catalogue - Dublin 1950-2 - By His Friends - X magazine - Poems - Further Quotes About - All

By His Friends
Anthony Cronin - John Ryan - John Jordan - C.H.Sisson - Martin Green - John McGahern - David Wright - Lima de Freitas - Katherine Swift - Tim Motion - Lionel Miskin - Jacques D'Arribehaude - Brian Higgins - George Barker - Patrick Kavanagh

Further Quotes
Brian Fallon - Aidan Dunne - Derek Hill - Brendan Behan - Lucian Freud - Patrick Kavanagh - Elizabeth Smart - Further Quotes About