Paul Henry (1876-1958)

In the West of Ireland (circa 1921)

Oil on board

54.5cm x 59.5cm

Private collection

Paul Henry was born at 61 University Road, Belfast in 1877. He began drawing as a student at Methodist College Belfast before moving to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution at the age of fifteen. He initially studied art at the Belfast School of Art and later relocated to Paris in 1898 to study at the Académie Julian and at Whistler’s Académie Carmen. He married the painter Grace Mitchell in 1903 and returned to Ireland in 1910, living on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, where he learned to capture the peculiar interplay of light and landscape specific to the West of Ireland. In 1919 he moved to Dublin and the following year co-founded the Society of Dublin Painters comprising a group of ten artists. In 1929 he separated from his wife and married the artist Mabel Young.

In the 1920s and 1930s Henry was one of Ireland’s best-known artists and had considerable influence on the popular image of the west of Ireland. His use of colour was affected by his red-green colour blindness and in 1945 he lost his sight, never regaining it before his death in 1958. A commemorative exhibition of his work was held at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1973 and the National Gallery of Ireland held a major retrospective show in 2004.