Charles Lamb RHA (1893-1964) Ireland

Charles Lamb 2The Irish landscape artist, portrait and figure painter Charles Lamb was born in  County Armagh. He studied painting and life-drawing at night classes at Belfast School of Art, before winning a scholarship to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin in 1917 where he came under the influence of Sean Keating. He began exhibiting at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1919, and thereafter averaged about 4 paintings per show until his final years. The following year he painted his masterpiece “Dancing At A Northern Crossroads”.

In 1922 Charles Lamb went to Connemara, settling in a remote Irish-speaking part of  County Galway. In 1923 he was elected ARHA and from then on year-after-year he held regular solo exhibitions, showcasing over 50 landscapes in 1924 at the St Stephens Gallery. In 1925, he travelled in Ireland and in 1926 he toured Brittany. More exhibitions followed, in Belfast, Waterford, Brussels, Boston and New York. In 1928 he visited the Aran Islands. In 1930 (along with Hans Iten, Frank McKelvey and others) he was elected one of the first members of the Ulster Academy of Arts. In 1935 he returned to Connemara where he established an art summer school. In 1938 he was elected a full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). Later that year he travelled to Germany. In 1941 he exhibited in Northern Ireland at Belfast and Portadown, while his “Bringing Home The Seaweed” was presented to the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. He continued painting actively right up until his death in 1964.

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In a different way to the idealised scenes of Sean Keating, Charles Lamb was one of the first painters to paint a type of heroic Western peasant, thus marking the difference both between the rural and the urban, and between Irish culture and one with English, European and American influence.

Charles Lamb’s paintings are represented in many collections including: the Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin; the National Gallery of Ireland; the Limerick City Art Gallery; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork; and many others.

Grace Henry HRHA (1868-1953)

Grace Henry 1Grace Mitchell (1868-1953) was raised in Aberdeen, and exhibited her early work with the Aberdeen Artists Society. Leaving Aberdeen around 1899, she pursued her artistic studies in Brussels in the Ernest Blanc Garic Academy. The Academy accepted female students, but they had to use a separate entrance. In Paris, she attended the Decluse Academy, and then the Academy Julian where she met Paul Henry. Through Paul Henry, the American artist James McNeill Whistler came to influence her work, leading to the prevalence of nocturnal scenes and affecting her choice both of subject and colour.

Her painting The Girl in White (1912 Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin) is reminiscent of Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862, National Gallery of Art, Washington) in its subject, its controlled brushwork and as a tonal study.
Paul Henry and Grace Mitchell were married in London in 1903, having moved there a couple of years earlier to further their artistic careers. Their trip to Achill in 1910, intended to last a fortnight, became a nine-year stay. Both artists painted extensively during these years, but in very different styles. Paul Henry’s Irish landscapes are typically muted in tone and focus on lake and mountain scenes. In contrast, Grace Henry often painted nocturnal scenes,working out of doors but using artificial lights to aid her in her compositions. In Evening Star, Achill (1912, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin) her use of colour is particularly striking in the vivid blue of the sky. Her works from this period show both the use of a rich palette, and a concern with atmospheric effects. She also painted figural groups in the west of Ireland. Top of the Hill (c.1920, Limerick City Gallery of Art) is a warm scene which gives a sense not just of the western landscape, but also a sense of the community. The painting shows a group of women stopping for a chat at the top of a hill. One woman looks out of the painting, smiling at the viewer. Their shawls and head-scarves, and the green fields and rolling clouds, are typical of portrayals of rural Ireland. However, Henry’s style, with its bold colours and heavy outlines, is very striking.

Grace Henry 2Along with her husband Grace Henry was a founding member of the Dublin Society of Painters which sought to promote young Irish artists. During the 1920s and 1930s she travelled in France and Italy, training under André Lhote, whose students Evie Hone, Mary Swanzy and Mainie Jellett were to bring Cubism to Ireland. However, his influence is not as strong on Grace Henry’s work, which never fully adopts a Cubist style. Grace Henry’s work has often been overshadowed by that of her husband, and the inscription on one of her paintings in the Hugh Lane Gallery reads “Mrs Paul Henry”. However, an examination of their work shows that Grace Henry was the more adventurous of the two – her works are more varied, and show modern influences, such as that of Cubism and Japanese prints. The Henrys exhibited together in St Stephen’s Green Gallery and the Magee Gallery in Belfast, among other venues, up until their formal separation in the early 1930s. Following this, she continued to travel and to paint. Grace Henry was made an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1949 and her work can now be seen in many Irish art institutions.