AE [George Russell] 'Fairies in a Wood'

AE [George Russell] (1867-1935), ‘Fairies in a Wood’ (detail).

AE [George Russell] (1867-1935)

Fairies in a Wood.

Oil on board, 29.2 x 45 cm
Bequeathed, Dr Bethel Eric Robert Solomons, 2012

On his trips to Donegal, AE very often retired to his so-called ‘Fairy House’, a tiny building in the woods overlooking Sheephaven Bay. Scenes of dancing and leisure are common in his oeuvre. The painting has the whimsical quality, characteristic of much of his work.

The prominence of children in AE’s pictures is far from incidental. Their blithe energy and imagination point to a freedom of spirit consistent with the visions the artist had developed from Theosophy, Irish mythology, memory and waking dreams. In articles in the Irish Statesman, AE lamented the stagnation that he observed in rural Ireland, brought about by a lack of amenities and emigration, but saw promise in young people. AE was au fait with Modernist trends, and convinced of the veracity of his own expression.

The NGI collection features some 25 works by AE, but just a small number of these are orthodox paintings in oils. Many works by AE included dancers in a landscape. Thematically, this picture bridges the gap in the collection between such works as Landscape with Figures (NGI.2008.92) and the more ethereal A Landscape with a Couple, and A Spirit with a Lute (NGI.4071).