Gerard Dillon
Belfast Figure Painter and Landscape Artist. Biography, Paintings.

For a guide to oils/watercolours
see: Irish Painting.
For answers to popular queries,
see: Irish Art Questions.

Gerard Dillon (1916-1971)

A landscape artist and figure painter, the Irish artist Gerard Dillon was born in Belfast the youngest of eight children. He left school at 14 and for seven years worked as a painter and decorator, mostly in London. From an early age he was interested in art, cinema, and theatre. As a result, and inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall and Sean Keating, Dillon gave up decorating about 1936 and started out as an artist, to which end he attended some classes at the Belfast College of Art. Dan O'Neill was a painting acquaintance at this time, as were George Campbell and Arthur Armstrong.


Dillon was also encouraged by Mainie Jellett who staged his first solo exhibition at The Country Shop, St. Stephen's Green, after he moved to Dublin in 1941. In 1943, he exhibited his first painting ("Disused Brickfield") at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), and began showing at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, becoming a regular contributor. Also during this period, he exhibited his paintings several times with the Water Colour Society of Ireland.

However, in spite of his growing reputation money was scarce. In 1944, he returned to London to see work among the bomb-clearance and demolition gangs.

Luckily, after the war, his reputation rose further with a succession of shows and other activities. In 1946, the Council for the Encouragement of Arts and Music (the forerunner of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland) gave him solo exhibitions in 1946 and 1950. In addition, his paintings were among those shown at the Associated American Artists' galleries in New York. His paintings began to sell and he had more solo shows in Dublin at the Victor Waddington Galleries in 1950 and 1953. In 1953, his oil painting "Island People" was purchased by the Crawford Gallery in Cork. His artwork appeared in most Oireachtas exhibitions between 1949 and 1970, and he had ten shows at the Dawson Gallery in Dublin between 1957 and 1970.

During the 1950s, Dillon's primitive-type painting style was gaining attention and he had several exhibitions. In 1958 he represented Ireland at the Guggenheim International, and Great Britain at the Pittsburg International Exhibition. He travelled widely in Europe and taught for brief spells at London art schools. In 1967, Gerard Dillon had a stroke which, in addition to the premature deaths of three of his brothers, made him forsee his own demise. As a result his work began to include a wealth of images and paintings intimating his death. Four years later he suffered a second fatal stroke at the age of 55. At his request, his grave, in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery remains unmarked.

His paintings are frequently reactions not just depictions of people or places. They often portray autobiographical images of interior domestic scenes, while his landscape and figure painting was inspired by the countryside around Connemara, his Belfast home and his London flat.

Dillon was a member of the Dublin Painters Group and a senior member of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art for twenty years. He lectured at NCAD and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin.


Paintings by Gerard Dillon are represented in several public collections, including:

- Arts Council of Ireland.
- Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork.
- Drogheda Municipal Art Collection.
- Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin.
- Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin.
- Limerick City Gallery of Art.
- National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
- Ulster Museum, Belfast.
- Waterford Municipal Art Collection.

Most Expensive Work by Gerard Dillon

The auction record for a work by Gerard Dillon was set in 2007, when his oil painting, entitled Self-Portrait In Roundstone, was sold at Sotheby's, London, for £192,000.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For details of other Belfast painters and sculptors, see: Irish Artists: Paintings and Biographies.
• For more about Chagall-style painters like Gerard Dillon, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For more about naive and fantasy painting, see: Homepage.

History of Irish Art
© All rights reserved.