Born in Belfast into a very strict, austere religious family, Paul Henry trained at the Government School of Art before moving to Paris, a heady world of artistic and other influences which were to transform his life and work. He enrolled at the Académie Julian and then at the Académie Carmen.
He worked as an illustrator in London for a short period, and in 1903 married the artist Grace Mitchell. In 1910, the couple visited Achill Island, and were so captivated by the local people and landscape that they decided to settle there. Achill, and the West of Ireland in general, was to prove an enduring inspiration for his life's work.
In 1919, Henry moved to Dublin, but continued to paint subjects from the west of Ireland. From about 1920 onwards, Henry concentrated on 'pure' landscape, omitting the figures that had populated much of his early work. His heavily stylized views, muted in tone and economical in detail, came to be regarded as quintessential images of the West of Ireland.The Painting
An unusually large work in Henry's Oeuvre, this painting 'records with great accuracy the view eastwards from the quay on the Clifden road just over a kilometre west of Letterfrack, Co. Galway. The mountain in the background is Doughruagh' (S.B. Kennedy, 'Paul Henry', 2003).
The cluster of diminutive, whitewashed cottages, picked out by sunlight against a backdrop of mountains and an impressive sky, is a motif that recurs in Henry's landscape painting from the early 1920s onwards. These cottages emphasise the grandeur of the local scenery while simultaneously alluding to the isolation of the rural communities and their reliance on the land. The turf stacks in the foreground serve as further evidence of the integral link between the people and their surroundings.