‘The Bog Road’ Auctioned – A Literary Painter Recalled
Paul Henry’s ‘The Bog Road’ was sold at auction during the week to an anonymous bidder a century after the artist arrived on Achill Island, the setting for the painting, and stayed on and off for almost a decade, endlessly absorbed with the colour and variety of the island’s cloud formations.
Henry had a fascination with writing and his autobiography, An Irish Portrait (published in 1951), is mostly about his experiences of Achill. Sean O’Faolain wrote the introduction and made the provocative statement: ‘Very few painters have written books and few of these are satisfying.’
Henry famously tore up his return ticket to London on the rocky point of Gubalennaun in Achill and between the island points of Keel and Dooagh found inspiration for many of his paintings. ‘The intensity of the emotion I got from a purely Irish landscape always puzzled and disturbed me …’
Paul Henry came to Achill the year after John Millington Synge died, admitting that there was something about Synge that appealed to him deeply and touched a chord, leading him to read Riders to the Sea over and over.
O’Faolain saw the same impulse in the work of the painter and writer: ‘Like his painting Henry’s writing is a sponge of nature …’
Maybe Henry would be pleased that his image of Achill soared through cyberspace this week, a century after he arrived in a place where he struggled to find the right image – and the right words – to convey the emotions he felt ?
I’ve just been to the Moderns exhibition at IMMA… it’s on a very large scale and deserves repeat visits in order to let it all soak in. I was so impressed by the selection of Paul Henry paintings on view. Their power and delicacy make an unforgettable impression on the viewer. It was interesting to see Grace’s paintings too!
I look forward to getting to the IMMA exhibition and seeing Paul and Grace Henry work in the one space. Grace was much less taken with Achill than her husband and found the island oppressive. There are stories of her working on paintings in her white smock on the old bridge at Dooagh. I have walked the area between Keel and Dooagh where Henry got a lot of his inspiration. It is worth a visit.