Gerard Dillon was largely self-taught and began his career as a house-painter. Despite his mother paying for art lessons, he refused to go, preferring to follow his own artistic inclinations. This independant attitude and confidence in his own ability was to pay off and, following his first one-man show in Dublin in 1942, he enjoyed great international recognition throughout his life.
Born in 1916 in Belfast, he grew up in a place of conflict and perhaps it was this turmoil that drove him to seek inspiration in the comparative seclusion of the West Coast of Ireland. The Connemara of the 1940s and 50s held no trace of the industrial city he had left behind. Unlike other artists such as Paul Henry who were drawn to this remote area to paint weather effects and landscapes, Dillon focused on the people and their everyday activities. He represents the local folk, for whom he had so much respect, with a childlike directness and quiet dignity.
The concept for The Thatcher surely began in one of the thumbnail sketches that he made on the spot and later transformed into finished pictures. The stark, flat ground of the white-washed cottage and expanse of thatch draw the eye to the thatcher himself. He is centrally placed within the composition illustrating the significance of his humble endeavour. The ubiquitous stone walls of the West lie to the left and right emphasising the harmony between the natural and manmade landscape.
Dillon once made a comment on his work that could justly be repeated here, 'I see a painting that I did years ago and sit down and look at it and say 'God, imagine me being able to do that!'.