Irish Modernism By Barber, Fionna
Modernism in Ireland was bound up with major social and political factors during the first part of the twentieth century, especially the effects of independence and Partition in 1922 and the role of the visual within national identity. This is an important context for Irish artists’ engagement with the wider development of European modernism; Cubism and Expressionism were particularly significant and, to a lesser extent, Surrealism. In 1910 the painters Paul and Grace Henry traveled from Dublin to Achill Island on Ireland’s Western Seaboard, where they remained until the end of World War I. This move, to some degree, emulated the earlier example of European avant-garde artists—such as Paul Gauguin in abandoning Paris for initially Brittany and then Tahiti—but it was also a sign of the fascination with the West that became an important cultural focus for an independent Ireland. The rural West, Catholic and Gaelic speaking, in many ways embodied the ideologies of the new Irish Free State. In addition to being the subject of Henry’s pastel-toned landscapes it became a major focus for both realist artists such as Seán Keating and modernist painters including Jack B. Yeats and Patrick Collins.