Artists in the Collection

Paul Henry RHA

Born 1876, Belfast , Northern Ireland
Died 1958, Bray, Ireland

A Belfast native, Paul Henry is one of Ireland most important painters. He began his career at the Belfast School of Art before going on to study in Paris in 1898. At that time Paris was the centre of artistic avant-garde and Henry was deeply influenced by the artists he met there. He studied at the Acadamie Carmen under James McNeill Whistler, who had a profound influence on him. Whistler encouraged Henry to concentrate on tone rather than colour, the effects of which can be seen in Henry’s mastery of charcoal as a medium. Henry also became acquainted with the artist Jean Francois Millet, a painter of French peasant scenes, whose subjects Henry admired greatly.

In the early 1900s Henry moved to London where he spent some years as an illustrator, and where, in 1906 he showed his work for the first time.
Influenced by JM Synge’s “Rider to the Sea”, Henry and his wife moved to Achill Island, off the coast of Mayo, in 1910. During this time Henry painted scenes of ordinary life- potato digging, turf cutting, fishing and seaweed harvesting. Henry was also captivated by the beauty of the Achill landscape and by the rapidly changing play of light on the water and the sea. His landscape paintings from this time usually concentrate on just one or two elements- a mountain, lake or cottage, with at least half the painting usually given over to a vast cloudy sky.

In 1919, the Henrys moved to Dublin where they co-founded the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920. Through this society modernist trends in painting were gradually introduced to the Dublin art world. From the 1920s onwards very little changed in Henry’s style of painting. However the popularity of his landscapes soared as they became the standard image of west of Ireland life in government publications and tourist literature. In 1926 he was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and became a full member two years later.