The Storyteller

Paul Henry through Emily had made the acquaintance of an elderly woman, who lived near Keel. Bedridden for some time, she welcomed visitors to her room entertaining them with tales from her vast collection of stories.

Paul Henry, listened attentively to the elderly storyteller, making sketches but nothing that would produce a proper painting. Then one day out of the blue she put it to Henry that she would like him to sketch her.fullsizerender-2

“I would like you to make a drawing of me if no one knew it was being done, I would not like anyone to know.”

Was her instruction. Delighted to have a sitter at last Henry called in the assistance of his and Emily mutual friend, the district nurse

“I called to my aid the District Nurse who was a friend of mine, and also a friend of the old woman and Mrs. Weddall. I hated worrying the old dear but I hated the thought of leaving Achill without seeing that marvelous old lady again, and we made our plans: the Nurse and Mrs. Weddall to screen our movements. I began to talk to her about general things and then mentioned the drawing. ¬†‘Alright Mr. Henry,’ she said ‘you have been good to me, as no one will see us I will sit for you but I don’t like doing it.'”

Paul Henry did not want to force her and before he got his pencil ready, but she burst into tears and said ‘I can’t do it, Mr. Henry I can’t do it.‘ was all she said. Another portrait that never made it to the canvas. All was not lost¬† however, he got to sketch the locals, however in a group rather than individually. The painting ‘Old People at a Dance‘, was the result.

Sources
Henry, An Irish Portrait, 1951