Academic journal article Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies

"The Watcher," Paul Henry. (Cover Story)

Academic journal article Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies

"The Watcher," Paul Henry. (Cover Story)

Article excerpt

The illustration featured on the cover of this volume is a painting by Paul Henry (1876-1958) called "The Watcher." It was completed during the period in his life when he lived on Achill Island (1910-19) and was first exhibited in Belfast in 1911. Henry's landscape paintings of the West of Ireland have become iconic for many who view the West as the "real" Ireland: pure, romantic, Gaelic, and Catholic. Henry was enthralled by Achill and most critics accept that his sojourn there defined his career, yet Henry was himself born in Belfast, the son of a Protestant clergyman.

Henry's painting encapsulates many of the questions and dilemmas called forth in this volume on "language and identity." We see a peasant woman dressed in the traditional red skirt, her feet planted firmly on the boulders of the western seaboard, gazing pensively into the stormy, cloudy Atlantic. She is clearly grounded in time and place, yet she ponders the unknown. The artist has made no attempt at portraiture; no details of her face are visible. So, who is this woman? …

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