New book shines light on Achill painters

Posted in Connect on February 6, 2019.


ONE hundred years after Paul Henry left Achill in 1919, we now know what Eva O’Flaherty really did with her ‘one wild and precious life’ – she was positively knee deep in immersive support and encouragement of painters on the island for decades. That’s according to Mary J Murphy’s revelatory upcoming book on Achill painters (set for an autumn launch), a topic which will also be explored during her talk at Scoil Acla 2019.

Research for the book threw up an extraordinary photograph of Scoil Acla circa 1912, as well as a possible link between Robert Henri’sportraits done in the desert of Southern California and
one painted at Corrymore House. Murphy, an art neophyte but driven by an unholy obsession with the life of Eva O’Flaherty (born in Caherlistrane, where the writer now lives) for over a decade, was guided by her blissful ignorance and the freedom it afforded her to ask the most basic of questions.

Because Miss O’Flaherty had been perennially associated with so many ‘trees’ – those of millinery in Paris and London (where she knew Paul Henry, a kinsman, in both places), with the Gaelic League and with the co-founding of Cumann na mBan and Scoil Acla, as well as with the running of St Colman’s Knitting Industries, the ‘wood’ was missed – her lifelong
devotion to art.
It was because of art that she fi rst came to the island – to Dugort in fact – before Scoil Acla. She was there too when Marie Howet arrived off a bus in the late 1920s, organising a residence for her from which she painted some of the iconic Achill images that subsequently appeared in her 1934 masterpiece, La Source D’ara, published in Paris. Eva was in situ as a salon hostess non pareil when Dooagh positively fl uttered with painters like Jellett, Hone, Reid, le Broquy and Hill, and Murphy has also succeeded in locating a copy of that seminal 1934 publication.
She has had much of it translated from the original French, only 90 copies of which were printed. It features 25 pictures, mostly of Achill, and an unknown landscape of Dooagh by Howet will provide the cover of the new book – which even features a Matisse connection.

Those who have contributed vital information and support to Mary J Murphy’s new book thus far include John ‘Twin’ and Mary McNamara, Mary T McNamara, Ann  Burke, John McHugh, Margaret Morrison, John O’Shea (RIP), Diarmuid Gielty, Seán and Margaret Cannon, Elizabeth and John Barrett, Vincent English, Seán Molloy, John McNamara (Dooagh Day), Dr Edward King, Annie McNulty (RIP), Patricia Byrne, Maria Gillen, Sheila McHugh, John F Deane, Laoise Kelly, Elaine Connaghan, Pauline Irvine and Mary Ball.

Source: The Mayo News, 4th February 2019

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