Local history: A round-up of books drawing on rural detail
Achill art, Mayo life, Meath Gaeltacht, filmic eye for nature and voluntary exploration
Many painters have been drawn hypnotically to Achill Island. Painting: Brigid Grealish Hunter
By her own admission, the Mayo writer Mary J Murphy has been driven by a lifelong curiosity and “inexplicable devotion” to Achill Island. Frequently she has ruminated over the connection between art and Achill, and with a fresh eye has explored its multilayered artistic life in the skilfully produced Achill Painters: An Island History (Knockma Publishing, €20). Consisting of 10 chapters, and produced in a landscape format, the wide parameters cover a period from the 1830s, when William Evans of Eton was a visitor, up to the present-day work of Camille Souter, described as “Achill’s reigning artistic monarch”.
Many painters have been drawn hypnotically to the island and the creative spirit has thrived alongside the social and cultural milieu. Apart from the usual suspects (Alexander Williams, Paul Henry, Seán Keating, Harry Kernoff), the author casts a fresh eye on lesser-known names. Overlooked female artists include the Belgian Expressionist Marie Howet, who produced 25 aquarelles, mostly on Achill; Anne Marie Bovet, from the French city of Metz; and the Drogheda-born painter Nano Reid. The longevity of the women who lived on the island is a compelling story, as well as the fact that so many were childless.