Object of the Month: ‘Irish Landscape’ by AE (George William Russell)

Irish Landscape by George "AE" Russell

Irish Landscape by George “AE” Russell

We’re celebrating Shaw’s Irish roots this year with our outdoor theatre production of Shaw’s great Irish play John Bull’s Other Island, which will you’ll be able to see in the garden’s here at Shaw’s Corner 24th – 26th July (booking details to follow).  We’re starting the party early in February’s Object of the Month with this Irish Landscape by the painter, poet and philosopher George “AE” Russell.

Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856 and left it some twenty years later for London. He didn’t return for decades and maintained an ambiguous relationship with his homeland for the rest of his life with John Bull’s Other Island being the only full length play that he set in the country. He did maintain a wide network of contacts within the Irish intelligentsia and there are many paintings and objects in Shaw’s Corner that show he never completely left Dublin behind. (See February’s Gallery of the Month for more…)

George Russell was a lifelong friend of William Butler Yeats and a devout Irish Nationalist as well as being a leading light of the Irish Literary Revival. He appears in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and published many volumes of mystic poetry. He used “AE” as a pseudonym and a signature – it can just be seen at the bottom left corner of this picture. This is a abbreviation of the Greek Aeon which signified for Russell the “lifelong quest of man.”

This article from the New York Times reprints an article from 87 years ago tomorrow (7th February 1928) in which AE discussed meeting his famous friends and claims that he was the person in the world who talked to Shaw without knowing who he was!

This isn’t the only AE picture that we have at Shaw’s Corner – we also have a charming watercolour of children playing on the beach which you can see on the National Trust Collections website here. You can see more of his work in held in public collections at the BBC Your Paintings site.

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