Mainie Jellet was among the earliest abstract painters in Ireland. Her father William Morgan Jellett was an Irish Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom. She studied drawing and fine art painting at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin and at the Westminster Technical Institute in London, where she demonstrated precocious talent as an artist in the impressionist style. Together with her companion Evie Hone she then went to Paris where she turned to the Cubist style and lectured and published essays on abstract art, noting its affinity with Celtic art.
Jellett produced portraits and landscapes at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin before leaving Ireland. Her larger paintings later took a religious direction, in which color, rhythm and harmonious Cubist forms defined recognizable symbols. She also made stage designs for the theatre and ballet, and decorated the Irish Pavilion at the Glasgow Fair in 1938. In 1943 Jellett was, along with Hone and others, a co-founder of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art.