Daniel O'Neill was an experimental artist, intrigued by the variety of effects one could achieve when working in oil. During wartime, when canvas was expensive, he would turn his attention to cardboard, greaseproof paper and even tablecloths. This inventive approach to his art was echoed in the places where he first exhibited, such as shoe or wool shops, although this owed more to a lack of alternatives than a conscious choice on his part.
Employed as an electrician in Belfast, O'Neill chose to work the night shift in order to spend his days painting. He spent both his formative and final years in the city but travelled to London and Paris in the intervening time. Prior to his Paris sojourn in 1949, Dan's only opportunity to study European art was to borrow (against the rules) the few illustrated texts from the local library. Consequently, the actual country and it's artists had a profound effect on his work and nowhere is their influence more apparent than in The Party Frock.
Here is a chic and modern mademoiselle, poised with a striking red bouquet to compliment her matching lipstick. The artist's tendency towards more angular features, echoing Picasso, is here replaced with a great sensitivity and delicacy in the woman's elegant face and neck. The tilted perspective of the table acknowledges O'Neill's debt to and admiration for Cézanne; and on it, a demonstration of his own virtuosity, defining a cup and saucer with a mere two daubs of his brush.
He did not work directly from the model yet his depictions of women were much admired and the artist and critic, Cecil Salkeld commented of his portraits, 'Always that dark wonder in her eyes, that imperceptible smile upon her lips' (see The Hunter Gather: The Collection of George and Maura McClelland at the Irish Mudeum of Modern Art, August 2005, p. 52.)