Gerard Dillon – A Northern Irish, Outsider, Harlequin

Harlequin. Outsider. Northern Irish.

I’ve been to an exhibition with a notebook and a pen and I wrote down these words, while my eyes were passing from a painting to another. Canvas and boards, but also illustrations and drawings. This is how I met Gerard Dillon, incredible artist, creator of works that leave without breath and in few instants take you inside the athmospheres he loved, in primis the Connemara ones.

I’ve never been to Connemara, but in Belfast, city where he was born, yes. And in Belfast there are the messy beds, a bit bohemien, where the medicine students of one of his works are sleeping:

Medical Students, Gerard Dillon. Irish (1916 – 1971) by AnnHedonia on Pictify


but there’s no trace of a moon so big among the stars: that’s in the west of the island, where his Connemara Lovers lay by the sea. And there, you will find also the seamen from the painting “Island People“, that look at him a bit surprised while he leaves his beloved Inishlacken, a canvas under his arm.

Gerard Dillon is the one of the exhibition’s poster that fascinated me, with the yellow bungalow and the child with the accordion, and those colours that without a doubt pay a homage to Van Gogh.

Dillon is the author who started from a self-portrait with cigarette and ended representing himself as the tragic Pierrot, the artist in a crisis inside a too empty and schematic painting, the man who cries for his prematurely dead brothers in a devastating and troubled piece, passing through the sparkling colours of “Self-contained flat”, in which he depicts himself no less than three times. Man, artist, misunderstood.


Is it all here? How many other Dillon there have been? The homosexual, the catholic, the self-taught artist. The one born in Falls Road, the one in Connemara, the one in London. The dearest friend who reads Nano Reid’s dreams, the religious who knew that the priest sleeps when you need to confess, the painter who drew celtic madonnas and spied monks…and the man who loved Belfast’s people, and please let’s stop with the usual landascapes, that we all seen too many.


The exhibition is a jewel, very beautiful, very little, to see and enjoy all at once. The Ulster Museum in Belfast dedicated it to the artist for the centenary of his birth. It is so little it doesn’t even have a catalogue that could help me remember the marvels I’ve seen, before they disappear again in private galleries. This is why I wrote all this down in my notebook, hoping to keep as long as possible the sensation of his works magic and colour and the memory of an artist that deserves to be known in depth.

An Harlequin. Outsider. Northern Irish.

Here I am in his yellow bungalow:

Gerard Dillon, 1916 – 1971
Painter, Dreamer, Clown. A Centenary Exhibition
27 May – 6 November 2016
Ulster Museum
Botanic Gardens,
Belfast BT9 5AB

Free entry.

Official site

P.S. I’m sorry for all the links inside the article, but because of the copyrights I didn’t feel to illustrate the text with the paintings’ images. Too bad, I know, but I advice you to have a look anyway, it’s worth it!

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