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Artistic legacy of Achill painters celebrated in new book

Going Out

‘EXPANSIVE APPEAL’ ‘Achill Painters: An Island History’, which will be launched in Dooagh on August 1.

Áine Ryan

COUNTY Mayo’s largest island’s long legacy of artistic endeavour is set to be celebrated at the launch of ‘Achill Painters: An Island History’, by Mary J Murphy, en plein air on August 1 next.
Hosted by Scoil Acla, which is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its revival this year, the author has already been fêted for her biography, ‘Achill’s Eva O’Flaherty – Forgotten Island Heroine (1874-1963)’. A feminist activist, entrepreneur and cultural connoisseur, her new book examines the broader narrative of Achill’s artistic community. Indeed, it provides a natural flow from Murphy’s book on O’Flaherty, whose lamp-lit salons in Dooagh were renowned for hosting the many artists and writers who flocked to the island during the Celtic cultural revival.
Among the artists featuring in ‘Achill Painters: An Island History’ is Belgian expressionist, Marie Howet, with Murphy exploring her 53-year love affair with the island through her  friendships with Eva O’Flaherty as well as the Burke family of Dooagh.     
Howet knew Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, was praised by Matisse, and admired by Derek Hill, Padraic Colum and Nano Reid. Murphy examines Howet’s 1934 masterpiece, ‘A La Source D’Ara’, which brims with stunning aquarelles of Achill Island.
The book’s overview ‘arcs from the 1830s paintings of William Evans of Eton right up to the contemporary work of so many deeply talented island-connected painters’.  
The author says: “This is the first time that so many names of Achill painters have been gathered together, and the book has an expansive appeal for both the general reader and for anyone who has ever been stricken by Achill’s inexplicable but hypnotic magneticism.”
Mary J Murphy lives in Caherlistanre, Co Galway, the birthplace of Eva O’Flaherty, and like her, she has a long association with Achill, where she is a regular visitor.
Now a century after Paul Henry departed Achill, this book celebrates how the wild landscape of this island has inspired so many artists. Its publication will be launched by islander John ‘Twin’ McNamara, with special guest, Achill-born poet John F Deane. The launch will be held at Lourdies in Dooagh, with Anne Bourke as guest-speaker also, at 3pm on August 1.