Dimensions: 54.75 × 39.5cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Kitsy Franklin was the youngest child of Victoria Franklin, the sister of Jennie and Susan Mitchell whose portraits are in the Niland Collection. The Mitchells and the Franklins had strong connections with Sligo. Victoria attended school there with Jack B. Yeats and she married Harry Franklin in the town in 1899.
Kitsy was a brilliant musician and a favourite niece of Susan Mitchell. She shared her aunt’s delicate health but is shown in the full bloom of youthful splendour in AE’s portrait. AE was a life-long friend and colleague of Susan’s. They worked together on the Irish Homestead and in the 1920s on the Irish Statesman. He would have known and heard of Kitsy throughout her childhood and early womanhood. Her youth and beauty are emphasized through the simple white dress that she wears and the natural, informal manner of her hairstyle, where the blue ribbon has come undone. The portrait also hints at the spontaneity and energy of the sitter and by extension her creativity and imagination.
Written by Roisin Kennedy
About the Artist
George William Russell (AE) (1867-1935)
Born 1867, Lurgan, Ireland
Died 1935, Bournemouth, England
Russell was born in Lurgan, County Armagh on 10 April 1867, moving to Dublin with his family when he was eleven.
In 1890, he started work at Pym’s store in Dublin. For many years, beginning in 1897, he worked full-time for Sir Horace Plunkett’s Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, a co-operative movement. He began as a ‘missionary’, travelling extensively throughout Ireland convincing farmers of the benefit of developing credit societies and co-operative banks. He became editor first of The Irish Homestead, and later of its successor, The Irish Statesman, where he published Patrick Kavanagh’s early poems, until it ceased publication in 1930.
After leaving school in 1884, Russell went to Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art where he first met W.B.Yeats, who became his friend and later his rival. In that year too Russell suddenly began to experience waking dreams of astonishing power and vividness which seemed to be thrust into his consciousness by a mind which was not his. A.E.‘s and Yeats’s interests in these visions led both to Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Movement, with A.E. later joining the Dublin group.
Russell was one of the major writers in the Irish Literary Renaissance. Among his poetry collections are Homeward: Songs by the Way (1894); The Earth Breath (1897); The Divine Vision (1904); Collected Poems (London, MacMillan, 1913/New York, John Lane, 1916); Salutation (1917) The House of the Titans (1934); and Selected Poems (1935). His mystical writings include The Candle of Vision (1918); The Avatars (1933); The Interpreters (1922); and Song and its Fountains (1932).
Russell was principally a painter of landscapes with figures, and of wonderful beings who might be incorporated into the landscapes, or be the dominant features on the canvas, often with amazed mortals observing them. This fluency, and habit of moving from one canvas to a new one to capture a new image meant that his pictures were often left unfinished, and as a result many of them are not as good as he could have made them. Those he did complete are often outstanding.
He used the pseudonym AE, or more properly “Æ” This derived from an earlier “Æ‘on” signifying the lifelong quest of man, subsequently shortened.
He died on July 17, 1935, in Bournemouth, England. He is buried in Dublin.
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