George William Russell (AE) (1867 – 1935)
ArtistGeorge William Russell (AE)
Dimensions61.5 × 40.5cm
MediumOil on canvas
ProvenancePresented by James A Healy, 1966, (John & Catherine Healy Memorial Collection)
This scene of children wading on a beach at sunset is an impressive example of Russell’s imaginative landscapes which were extremely popular when exhibited at the beginning of the 20th century. Many of his paintings were created while on holidays in Donegal or Sligo or at weekends when he had some free time from his other work as a poet, essayist and active member of the co-operative movement.
The influence of French Symbolist art which Russell would have known from collections in Ireland and England and through reproduction can be seen in the sinuous forms of the sand and the current of the tide which sweeps across the composition. The rich gold, blues and reds of the sky transform the scene from the mundane into something more timeless and significant. This exaggeration of the scene reflects Russell’s interest in spiritualism and belief in a higher reality. He has signed the painting AE in the lower right, which is derived from the word Aeon, meaning an emanation of God. Russell was an active member of Dublin’s Theosophical Society and claimed to have experienced supernatural visions.
This painting was bought from the artist by John Quinn. It is listed in a letter from Russell to Quinn of 17 October 1908 in which the artist confirms that it has been packed along with other paintings to send to New York (1). It was exhibited at the American Art Galleries in 1927 as part of the John Quinn collection where Healy may have acquired it. Healy presented the work to Sligo in 1966
(1) Marian Burleigh, George Russell (AE) The Painter of the Irish Renaissance, New York University, 1978, Ph.D.
Written by Roisin Kennedy