'Almost single-handedly Paul Henry defined a view of the Irish landscape, in particular that of the West, that remains as convincing to modern eyes as it was in his own time. Like Constable's Suffolk and Cézanne's Provence, once experienced it is difficult to see the landscape of the west other than through Henry's eyes.' (S. B. Kennedy, Paul Henry, National Gallery of Ireland exhibition catalogue, 2003, p.5)
Paul Henry's destiny as a painter was realised once he encountered the majestic landscape of the west of Ireland on his first trip to Achill in 1910. The mountains and lakes, dramatic light and ever-changing climate, inhabited by little white thatched cottages and peat stacks, provided Henry a subject with which he would never tire. The marvel of Henry's work is that a century on from his first paintings there, it continues to inspire and enthral audiences. A significant reason for this is the artist's painterly approach. Having taken himself to Paris at the end of the 20th century, he immersed himself in its buzzing, artistic atmosphere and critically, attended classes at the Academie Carmen where Whistler expounded the principles of harmonious arrangements, restrained palette, considered brushwork and 'art for art's sake.' Thus on arriving on the west coast of Ireland, Henry put his Parisian art education into practice, seeing the landscape with a wholly modern eye.
Painted in 1935-36, Evening on Killary Bay is such an example; the clouds, mountains and lake subtly vary between tones of blues and whites and are given form and substance by Henry's brushwork. In the foreground, the famous thatched cottages sit nestled amongst such grandeur. The painting embodies a view that has become symbolic of Ireland and which continues to captivate both those who know the landscape well and those that wish to visit on account of such imagery.
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