Paul Henry Irish Artist

Irish Art

Paul henry is an Irish artist whose painting ‘The Potato Diggers‘ sold for €400K at Adams auctions in 2013, Irish art is in high demand and Irish artists and their Irish paintings are particularly popular.


Paul Henry Art Sales

Paul Henry is a well-known Irish artist and in 2007 one of his paintings sold for a record €300K, there was no doubt that future sales would go even higher due to both national and international interest in Henry’s work. At an Adam’s sale in Dublin on the 18th July 2013 the €300K record was surpassed when Henry’s painting, ‘The Potato Diggers’, sold for €400K

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Paul Henry Paintings

During his time in Achill Island in County Mayo, Paul Henry painted many life scenes and landscapes, ‘The Potato Diggers’ would have been painted around 1910-1911, it was originally sold in 1933 for a sum of £300, which would have been a considerable sum at that time, until its sale in July 2013, ‘The Potato Diggers’ had remained with the family who had originally bought it. In 2013 it would be an Irish family living in another country who would become its new custodians.

Paul Henry painted, ‘The Potato Diggers’ during his time on Achill Island, and it is known that the people who are subject to, ‘The Potato Diggers’, are in fact people that Henry had befriended on Achill, Margaret and Michael Toolis, the Toolis family were one of the first families who welcomed Henry to the Island.

Paul Henry, Achill Island

Paul Henry lived and worked on Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland from 1910 to 1919. Henry painted many local Achill scenes, including portraits and landscapes, and documented island life in sketches and paintings such as, ‘The Potato Diggers’. Many of the paintings created by Henry on Achill are world famous; he painted a traditional Irish boat scene using a yawl, a traditional west of Ireland sailing boat and this is a painting of particular significance to the fishing community in County Mayo. Yawl racing has been revived on Achill Island and is now a major summer sport on the waters around the island.

Paul Henry (1876-1958) was born in Belfast and later lived and worked on Achill Island for a decade, from 1910-1919, and continued to produce Achill landscapes in later life. His works, particularly the landscapes of Achill Island and Connemara, came to typify a vision of Ireland that was prevalent in the early years of the new Irish Free State.

Paul Henry religion and politics

Paul Henry was one of four boys born to a Belfast Protestant preacher, the Rev Robert Mitchell Henry. Paul came from a long line of Protestant preachers, and his maternal grandfather – Rev Thomas Berry – actually preached the Gospel on Achill Island in the mid-1830s. It is likely that Rev Berry was part of the Protestant Mission established on Achill Island in the 1830s by the Rev Edward Nangle. Despite the family’s religious tradition and the political upheavals that took place in Ireland during his lifetime, Paul Henry was noticeably non-political. His eldest brother, Robert Mitchell (Bob) Henry, was a distinguished classical scholar at Queen’s University Belfast, St Andrews, and Trinity College, Dublin. Politically Bob was a nationalist and a supporter of the Home Rule movement. He was the author of ‘The Evolution of Sinn Fein’, published in 1920. Paul Henry himself did flirt with nationalism in his youth, attending marches on the Falls Road in Belfast to mark the centenary of the 1798 uprising. However, shortly after this he left Belfast for Paris.

Paris at the turn of the 20th century was the centre of the artistic avant-garde, home to artists such as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec as well as some notable Irish writers, including W.B. Yeats and the unpublished J.M. Synge in the late 1890s, Oscar Wilde and, between 1902 and 1903, James Joyce. Paul Henry, who had studied as an artist in Belfast, enrolled in a studio run by the painter James McNeill Whistler. According to S.B. Kennedy’s excellent book on Paul Henry (‘Paul Henry’), the young artist was impressed by Millet and his focus on ordinary people in the countryside going about their everyday lives. Later Paul Henry turned to the avant-garde artists such as Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin for their vitality, colour and energy.

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