People gathering seaweed was a favourite subject for painters in Ireland in the nineteenth century. Samuel Lover’s The Kelp Gatherers dates from 1835, while fourteen years later, George Victor Du Noyer was sketching horses and carts, with people gathering kelp, on a Wexford beach. Joseph Malachy Kavanagh’s Carting Seaweed on Sutton Sands, painted in 1895, is in the National Gallery of Ireland. Three years later Henry Jones Thaddeus was painting seaweed gatherers in the West of Ireland, while from 1912 onwards, Paul Henry, living and working in Co. Mayo, often depicting turf cutting and kelp gathering. In the west of Ireland, seaweed was sometimes piled high and burned, as a source of iodine; but in most cases around the Irish coast it was collected in carts, and spread over fields, to enrich depleted sandy soils.
In 1901, Hone shared an important exhibition with John Butler Yeats in Dublin which brought both artists to national acclaim and convinced patron and collector Hugh Lane that Dublin should have a modern gallery of art. The present painting was acquired by John Quinn, a first generation Irish-American and New York lawyer who was a leading patron of Irish artists. He was especially close to the Yeats family, supporting and promoting John Butler Yeats, W. B. Yeats and Jack B. Yeats in America.
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