Born in Belfast, Gerard Dillon left school in 1930 at the age of fourteen. His keen interest in art led to his becoming a full-time artist, but from time to time, in order to earn a living, he returned to his trade as a house painter. During the war years he worked in Belfast and Dublin, and in 1944, despite his growing reputation as an artist, he returned to London to work on building sites. After the war he became more successful, and in 1958 had the double honour of representing Ireland at the Guggenheim International and Great Britain at the Pittsburg International Exhibition. He travelled widely in Europe and taught for brief periods in the London art schools. In 1968 he was back in Dublin, designing sets and costumes for Sean O´Casey´s play Juno and the Paycock.
From the beginning of his career Dillon´s art portrayed aspects of life in Connemara and the Aran Islands. Like Sean Keating and Charles Lamb, Dillon was interested as much in the life of the people of the West of Ireland as in the landscape. His style of painting is personal and idiosyncratic, deriving inspiration from the work of Gauguin and Chagall - a sort of magic realism, with dream-like landscapes and interiors peopled by farmers and fishermen but also by pierrots and strange hallucinatory figures.