This commemorative booklet is a tribute to Irish artist, Paul Henry, a legend of modern Irish Art. It is barely possible for the current generation to look at the hills, valleys and lakes of the Irish landscape - in an art gallery or the open air, without thinking of the paintings of Paul Henry. See biography below.
2008 Paul Henry
Ireland Prestige Booklet
Date of Issue
- Apr-17, 2008
- Irish Security Stamp Printing Ltd
- Paul O'Kelly, The Oriel Gallery
- Gearóid O Casaide
Paul Henry was born in Belfast in 1876. He was raised by a minister in a strict Baptist household, and went straight from school to an apprenticeship in a local linen factory. He soon left to study painting, first in the Belfast School of Art, then, in his early twenties, in Paris, at the Académie Carmen. His Paris influences included his tutor James McNeill Whistler, the Barbizon painter Jean Francois Millet, and the post Impressionist generation of Van Gogh and Cézanne.
From Post Impressionism he took a blunt and uncompromising approach to the formal challenges of landscape painting: he simplified shapes and textures, reducing the visible world to its bare painterly necessities. From Millet, meanwhile, he borrowed (particularly in his early work) an interest in humble rural life, and a close study of farmers and peasant women
That figurative emphasis was useful to him in his next phase, a decade long stint as a graphic artist, illustrator and cartoonist in London, to which he moved in 1901. However a 1910 holiday in Achill Island, off the coast of Co. Mayo, proved a crucial turning point. Such was his enchantment that he stayed on for a year, painting the people in their daily round of chores in the stark, rocky landscape.
He eventually settled on the island in 1912, remaining on until 1919, when he moved to Dublin.
There, he helped to found the Society of Dublin Painters, joining Yeats, Mary Swanzy and others to bring a taste of School of Paris modernism to the insular world of Irish academic art. This was a time of great productivity for Henry, but that success began to take its toll, as soon as the late 1920's. He grew estranged from his wife Grace Henry, herself an established painter. Henry felt at times a prisoner of his own success, or more precisely, of the artistic formula that had won him popularity. In 1930 he moved from Dublin to a cottage just outside Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, where he lived with the painter Mabel Young. (He would marry her after Grace's death in 1953.) He remained there until his death in 1958.
The two paintings featured here, West of Ireland Landscape and A Connemara Village, are perfect examples of his classic landscape style. The stark topography of field-mountain-sky, with their controlled, limited color and simple shapes, make them ideal for the miniaturist art of the postage stamp. They were both painted in the mid 1930's, and inspired by the rugged topography of the western seaboard. (The mountain in A Connemara Village has been identified as Doughruah, Co. Galway)
Examples of Paul Henry's work are to be found in every significant public and private collection in Ireland, including those of National Gallery of Ireland, the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and the Merrion Hotel, Dublin.