Henry’s landscape painting depicts the terrain of the west of Ireland reduced to its key essentials of sky, bog and turf. In his use of mass and color, he can be seen as the first Irish post-Impressionist artist – recording the traditional way of life but in a modern style. He is now regarded by many critics as one of the most influential Irish landscape artists of the twentieth century, and an important painter in the history of Irish Art.
Born in Belfast, Paul Henry attended the Belfast School of Art after which a family member financed a trip to Paris in 1889, where (like John Lavery) he studied at the Academie Julian and was influenced (later) by the rural realism and plein-air painting of Jean Francois Millet, the Barbizon landscape artist. Henry spent a relatively short period of time in the French capital but became one of its best-known Irish artists of the time. He also met Grace Mitchell his wife-to-be, and developed a particular skill in the use of charcoal, which became his favorite medium. In 1900, he moved to London, where he worked as a newspaper illustrator and art teacher. After a few years he returned to Ireland and moved to Achill Island off the County Mayo coast. It was here that Henry discovered his true style as an artist, painting scenes of Irish peasants digging potatoes, cutting turf cutting and harvesting seaweed.
In 1919, he moved to Dublin where – along with several other painters including Jack B. Yeats and Mary Swanzy – he quickly founded the Society of Dublin Painters. By this time, Henry’s style of painting began to focus on pure landscapes typically comprising mountains, a lake and some cottages, topped by a sky which takes up half the painting. In 1922, he gained his first international acclaim when the Musée du Luxembourg purchased his painting: A West of Ireland Village.
During the 1920s several of Paul Henry’s works were reproduced as posters or prints and helped to establish the standard scenic view of Ireland in tourist literature and in government publications. Even today, his pictorial naturalism continues to represent a vision of Ireland that many people regard as truly authentic. Henry was appointed a full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1928 and became one of the first members of the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts. He died in 1958.
Paul Henry’s paintings include:
In Connemara, Turf Sacks In Connemara, A Western Lough, Achill Cottages, Achill Head, Fishing Boat Achill, Blasket Island, Bog Cutting, Cloudy Day, Launching the Currach, Scene on Aran Island, Silent Waters, Thatched Cottages, On Killary Bay, The Road to the Mountains, The Tower, The Watcher, Turf Sacks, Turf Sacks By A Pool, The Roadside Cottages, Cottages by A Still Lough, Cottages by the Lake, Glencree, Dusk, Evening on the Bog, Misty Morning, Mountain and Lake, Mountain and Lake After Rain, Mountain Landscape West of Ireland, Grace O’Malley’s Castle, Head of an Old Man, Killary Harbour, Connemara Hills, Storm on a Connemara Lake, Cloudy Day Connemara, Windswept Trees Connemara, Lakeside Cottages.