The Permanent Collections

Painting Collection

Grace Henry (1868-1953) Top of the Hill

Top of the Hill

Henry, Grace

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c.1920, oil on linen, 60 x 50 cm (gift of the artist in 1948)

Grace Henry (1868-1953) was born Emily Grace Mitchell in Aberdeen. She studied in Brussels and Paris, where she met the Irish painter, Paul Henry. They married in London in 1903, and after some years inEngland, moved to Achill Island in 1912.


Grace Henry’s Top of the Hill, injected with reds and yellows, demonstrates a different interpretation than Paul Henry’s depictions of Achill life. In contrast to The Old Woman, the women in this painting appear less burdened. For a few moments, business is suspended as they enjoy the happy coincidence that finds all three assembled on the top of the hill at the same time – a chance to gossip in peace.


Like her husband, Grace Henry was moved by the landscape in one of the most remote parts of Ireland, and she responded sympathetically to the people working and living in this environment. Grace Henry was also influenced by Japanese artwork, and you can witness this influence in the way she simplifies, flattens and outlines forms in Top of the Hill.


It is interesting to contrast Paul Henry’s iconic views of Irelandwith the images presented by Grace. While he celebrates the triumph of the solitary soul in a harsh but beautiful land, she demonstrates a more contemporary awareness of life inIreland. She does this both by depicting everyday social scenes and using modern design techniques. She plays with perspective, designing the composition of this painting in such a way that the viewer is naturally encouraged to look upward, following the incline of the slope towards the gathering at the top of the hill.

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