2018-05-30-2019-01-23 --- 2019-01-23 01:23:02--18
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LOT :41
George Russell AE (1867-1935)
Spring Rite
Gouache, 26.5 x 41.5cm (10½ x 16¼")
Estimate EUR : €800.00 - €1,200.00
Auction Date : 30-05-2018


George Russell AE (1867-1935)
Spring Rite
Gouache, 26.5 x 41.5cm (10½ x 16¼")
With monogram

Provenance: Sale, these rooms, 5th September 1978, Catalogue No. 191, where purchased by the late Bríd Mahon, folklorist and author of "White Green Grass Grows: Memoirs of a Folklorist", and thence by descent.

We thank Dr Deirdre Kelly for her assistance in cataloguing this lot. Dr Kelly has a PhD from the University of Limerick and is a specialist on the art of George Russell AE.

Despite being born into a Protestant family in Northern Ireland, George Russell was staunchly nationalist and he threw his adult life into the celebration and nurturing of Irish tradition.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Ireland was in the grips of a Celtic Revival, spearheaded by three main groups: The Gaelic League, the Irish Agriculture Organisation Society (IAOS) and the Irish Literary Theatre Society. Russell was closely linked with the IAOS and, from 1905, he successfully steered their magazine The Irish Homestead to great success. Through his involvement, Russell hoped to give life to his desire to encourage a National School of Art, allowing for Celtic inspiration to manifest itself through Irish artists.

True to his beliefs, he carried this through into his own artistic output, incorporating Irish folklore and nostalgia in his paintings to create vivid glimpses of a bygone and fantastical age. With his introduction to Theosophy, his interest in the mystic only intensified. Theosophy is a religious philosophy that strives to challenge the traditional, putting an emphasis on mystical experience and the idea of an immortal and utopian land. His adherence to this teaching can be clearly seen in the pseudonym that Russell took for himself, AE. The letters allude to the word aeon, hinting towards an eternal state and his search for the everlasting.

In Spring Rite, Russell delightfully brings us into such an experience, presenting us with a glade filled with merriment, where our eyes feast on colour and our ears reverberate with music. The delicate flowers at the girls feet remind us of bluebells, a plant commonly associated with fairies and as the girls skip around an apple blossom, their circular motion recalls the eternity of life, the tree itself an ancient symbol of longevity and virility. Through this simple image, we are transported back to the fairy tales of our youth, enveloping us in a world of mystery, magic and wonder. It is to this ethereal world that Russell wanted Ireland to return, his paintings and poetry acting as a spiritual guide to all that encountered them.

Russells vision caught the admiration of the late Bríd Mahon, a woman who dedicated her life to the pursuit and preservation of Irish Folklore. Mahon started working for the Irish Folklore Commission in 1949 and later went on to a career in the Department of Irish Folklore in UCD. Throughout her career, Mahon mingled with many influential characters of Irish history and art, her acquaintance list featuring names such as Maud Gonne, Frank OConnor and Micheál Mac Liammóir. It was in Mahons home that Spring Rite found pride of place on one of the walls, an artistic representation of the stories and legends that she spent her life tracking down, a representation of a culture now meticulously preserved among archives and aging paper.

Helena Carlyle


Hammer Price : €2,600.00
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