The conservation lab at the Burns Library is a pleasant workspace with a nice blend of modern equipment, like my arts and crafts style oak work bench which was hand built in 1999 by Paul O’Connell, a graduate of the North Bennet Street School. The conservation lab also contains a standing press made in Italy, pictured below. In addition, the lab has 19th century equipment including a board shear which looks like a giant paper cutter.
If I need to rest my eyes after sitting at the work bench doing a closely focused task, I have the option of looking out of my window at the neatly manicured labyrinth on the lawn beside the Burns Library or I can gaze at an Irish mountain scene. The scene “Evening in Wicklow,” is a framed oil painting by artist Mabel Young. Since March is Women’s History Month and also the month we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I thought that I would tell you more about this woman artist who is known for her Irish landscape paintings.
Mabel Florence Young was born on the Isle of Wight in 1889, and came to Dublin in 1914 to assist her sister who was the housekeeper of the Shelbourne Hotel (the hotel, where in 1916, the Irish Constitution was drafted in room # 112). The sisters were in Dublin during historic times: through the 1916 Rising and the ensuing Civil War. In 1924, while on a vacation in County Wicklow, Young met Irish artist Paul Henry (1877-1958). County Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland in the province of Leinster is known as ‘the last county’ because it was the last one in Ireland to be formed, in 1605. Paul Henry, at that time already a well-known artist, had attended the Belfast School of Art, studied under Thomas Bond Walker, then entered Académie Julien in Paris, and worked in Whistler’s studio. With Henry’s encouragement and training and advice Mabel began painting. Later, Young and Henry settled at Kilmacanogue in County Wicklow, some 20 miles south of Dublin.
“Evening in Wicklow” represents only one of the many Irish landscapes painted by Mabel during her long successful career. She exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy of Art in 1929, showing a total of thirty-two works between then and 1961. Other exhibitions of her work were held at Combridge Fine Art Gallery, the Shelbourne Hotel, and she was included in the 1953 Contemporary Irish Art exhibition at Aberystwyth in Wales. Her first solo exhibition was shown in 1933 at Country Shop in St. Stephen’s Green. Additionally, Young’s work appeared in solo exhibitions at the Ritchie Hendiks Gallery in Dublin and Kenny’s Bookshop and Gallery in Galway. Her works are in many private and public collections including the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin. She died in 1974. The Burns Library is fortunate to have this lovely Irish landscape painting by Mabel Young, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard King. Also note that the landscape “Reflections, Connemara” by Paul Henry, is prominently displayed in the Burns Library’s Irish Room, so both husband and wife are represented in our collections. These are just two of the many significant Irish paintings owned by the Burns Library: portraits of literary figures as well as Irish interior scenes may also be viewed in the Irish Room. The paintings, historic Irish harps, Irish sculpture, and Irish archival items attractively decorate the room which is lined with bookcases filled with important Irish books. The Burns Library is a valuable location to visit when marking St. Patrick’s Day, and during the month of March, consider contacting the Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or email@example.com to study archival items related to women’s history. Collections such as the Cuala Press Printed Materials Collection, the Eva Mckee Collection and the Jane Jacobs Papers are three examples of the Burns Library collections showcasing the historic accomplishments of women. The information mentioned in the brief biography I wrote about Mabel Young was gathered from the book entitled Paul Henry with Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings, and Illustrations, by S.B. Kennedy, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2007. This book and others on art are available in the Bapst Art Library. If you require reference assistance at the Bapst Library, contact our colleague, Adeane Bregman, Bapst Art Librarian, firstname.lastname@example.org , or 617-552-3136.
- Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, Burns Library