Achill Painters – An Island History, by Mary J. Murphy
From the back cover:
Widely acclaimed for her sweeping biography of Achill’s Eva O’Flahertyin 2012 Mary J. Murphy returns once more to her beloved island, this time to explore its rich history of painters. This lambent study, coming 100 years after Paul Henry departed Achill in 1919, celebrates the intriguing story of Belgian Expressionist Marie Howet’s fifty-three year love affair with that island through her friendships with art doyenne O’Flaherty and the Burke family of Dooagh. Its contents arc from the 1830s paintings of William Evans of Eton right up to the contemporary work of Camille Souter and Maggie Morrisson et al., and include the visit to Achill in 1905 of Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler, the famous Victorian war painter. With a somewhat meditative tone, this unique compilation blends seamlessly both art and island history. Howet knew G.B. Shaw, was praised by Matisse, and was admired by Derek Hill, Padraic Column and Nano Reid. The absorbing text, uncompromising in its research, provides too an in depth examination of Howet’s 1934 masterpiece, A La Source D’Arca, which brims with stunning ‘aquarelles’ of Achill Island.
Mme. Howet’s many visits to Ireland intersected with the lives of Stephen Gwynn, Stella Frost, Hilda Roberts, Muiris MacGonigal, Sean O’Sullivan, James White, Mainie Jellett, and Evie Hone, all similarly drawn to Achill, that sumptuous Arcadia for artists. Here too we read of Alexander Williams, Sarah Purser, Emily Weddall, Eileen Costello, Robert Henri, ‘Cesca’, Dairine Vanston, Stella Steyn, Frances Kelly, Nora Robertson, Patricia Lynch, Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Sean Keating, Louis le Brocquy, Letitia and Eva Hamilton, Estella Solomons, Charlotte Thompson Lawrenson, Grace Henry, Anne Yeats, Dorothy Blackham, Desmond Turner, Micheal de Burca, Charles Lamb and scores more. Compiled by an author who has been going to the island for decades, and driven by her ongoing obsession with the life of Caherlistrane-born Eva O’Flaherty, this is Mary J. Murphy’s impressive homage to what Percy French – an Achill painter too – called “the island of my dreams”.
Published by Knockma Publishing 2020