Achill Island – a place of inspiration

You know there must be something special about a place when people of artistic persuasion flock there. The creative instincts of painters, photographers and writers have long responded to the unique atmosphere created by the distinctive light and dramatic landscape of Achill Island. These special features have attracted many artists across the years.

Achill is the largest of the Ireland isles, sitting just off the west coast of Ireland. Here are just a few who have been drawn to the rugged beauty of this area in County Mayo.

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Heinrich Boll

Boll arrived on the island in the early 1950s and lived in Dugort. The cottage where he resided is now home to writers and artists, funded by the Mayo District Council and the Irish Art Council to facilitate the ongoing tradition of artistic expression on the island.

Graham Greene

English writer Graham Greene lived for several years in Dooagh during the 1940s. It is said that he wrote parts of his two novels “The Heart of the Matter” and “The Fallen Idol” in Dooagh. In addition, the island inspired some of Greene’s most beautiful poems. He came to know Achill through Catherine Walston who was married to the British MP Harry Walston who introduced him to the island and with whom he was having an affair. He rented a traditional stone hut in Dooagh as a rural retreat.

Achill became a very symbolic location for Graham Greene, the place where his imagination could fly and all those feelings of love, desire, obsession, jealousy, guilt, and despair could flow freely. He loved the island so much that he thought of giving up writing, marrying Catherine and buying a rural hotel, Old Head at Killsallagh in Louisburgh, but it never took place and even though he adored the island, his visits stopped, possibly as a result of the affair.

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Paul Henry

The Irish artist also made a home on Achill. He is best known for the extraordinary representation of this very special island where he captured the incredible interaction of light and landscape so specific to this region of Western Ireland. Come and see for yourself with Irish Airports at https://irelandwestairport.com/

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Henry and his wife, both painters, arrived in 1910 for a fortnight’s holiday but were so taken with the island, they didn’t leave for almost a decade.  Wild landscapes were a source of Paul’s works and inspired the image and style that is unique to the new Irish Free Country and the landscape icon of West Ireland. He focused on people who work and do their daily work in landscapes, villages and homes.

Robert Henry

Perhaps the most famous painter to have lived on Achill is the American, Robert Henry. He made numerous visits to West Ireland and rented a house close to Dooagh after 1913 which he later bought in the mid-1920s. During the ensuing years, every spring and summer he traveled back to Achill to paint the children of the island. His portraits are the most emotional aspects of his work.

Whether you’re a budding painter or an experienced writer looking for inspiration, Achill will enchant you.

 

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