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Irish Museum of Modern Art opens a major exhibition of the work of William Crozier
William Crozier, The Rowan Tree, 1982. Oil on canvas, 198 x 231 cm, William Crozier Estate courtesy Flowers Gallery, London.

DUBLIN.- IMMA presents William Crozier, The Edge of the Landscape. This is the first major presentation of Crozier’s work in Ireland since the retrospective held at Crawford Art Gallery, Cork and the RHA, Dublin in 1991. Best-known in Ireland for the lyrical landscapes made close to his home in West Cork from the mid-1980s, this exhibition of 30 works presents William Crozier’s early work, inspired by the Existentialist movement and the anxieties of the post-war period.

For Crozier the landscape was the source of his visceral paintings. Instinctive, animated brush strokes convey the primitive energy he unearthed in the natural world. This is evident in both the lyrical landscapes of his West-Cork work, and the ravaged landscapes of this earlier period; symbolising the torment and fear of the post-war condition at the heart of existentialism.

In the introduction to Crozier’s 1961 solo exhibition, critic G. M. Butcher wrote; “if there is one thing that Crozier wishes to get across in all his painting, it is a mood of fear, anxiety, unease. This is his personal reaction to the world as it is - where savagery is only just beneath the surface.”

Commenting on the exhibition Seán Kissane, Curator: Exhibitions, IMMA said; “William Crozier turned to landscape painting at a time when Abstraction was dominating artistic discourse, a gesture typical of an artist who consistently sought an individual vision and artistic path. His connections to European painting and writers single him out as a unique voice. His quotation of Existentialism, and his expressionist style create very potent images - yet few of these seminal works have been seen in major exhibitions. This exhibition hopes to address that gap and reposition Crozier as an essential post-war painter.”

The Edge of the Landscape is curated by Seán Kissane at two separate locations. The first part of the exhibition was presented at the West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen from 15 July to 31 August 2017 and the second part opens in IMMA on Friday 13 October 2017.

As we enter the second year of the IMMA Collection: Freud Project it is timely to offer a presentation of another artist who, like Lucian Freud, was a central part of the post-war London art scene, but who was also a much-loved Irish painter. Our broader programme regularly explores the very close cultural links between Ireland and Britain, and Crozier is a prime example of an artist who straddled both territories throughout his career. He began to exhibit in London in the late 1950s and was a central part of the Soho scene that included Freud and Francis Bacon.

William Crozier (1930 - 2011) was born in Glasgow where he would later attend the Glasgow School of Art. His paternal family were Irish, from Co Antrim and as a child he often visited his grandparents at their home in Ballinderry. As a teenager he hitchhiked all around the country and developed a love of Ireland that would remain with him throughout his life. Immediately on leaving art college he travelled to post-war Paris where he absorbed the Existential writings of Sartre and de Beauvoir that became central to his practice as an artist. London was Crozier’s main base where he moved in the same circles in Soho as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

In 1953 he moved to Dublin with his family and made a living painting theatre sets. At the time he made few connections to visual artists but became friends with some of the greatest writers of the time: Anthony Cronin, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. These writers, particularly Kavanagh, shaped Crozier’s thinking about Ireland and influenced how he saw and represented the landscape in his work. Crozier maintained contact with these writers throughout the 60s and Cronin invited him to spend some time with him near Malaga, which inspired a large body of new work inspired by the landscape of heat and vines. Around this time he began to teach at Winchester School of Art. Crozier’s relationship with Ireland deepened when he adopted Irish citizenship in 1973 and finally bought a home in West Cork in 1983. This began a hugely productive period of work as he grappled with the powerful landscape there. He would go on to produce some of the most iconic works of the Irish landscape made in the latter half of the twentieth century. William Crozier was an elected member of Aosdána as well as honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and represented both Ireland and the UK internationally in numerous museum collections including Tate, London; Imperial War Museum, London; National Museum in Gdansk, Poland; and the National Gallery of Ireland.

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