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Russell, George William (A.E. / AE)

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Biography: George William Russell (1867–1935), who wrote under the pseudonym A.E., was a journalist, poet, agricultural economist and an artist. He was born in Lurgan, County Down, but from the age of eleven he and his family lived in Dublin. He attended evening classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art when he was thirteen years old, from this period he demonstrated his interest and facility for watercolour painting. Later he attended art classes at the Royal Hibernian Academy where he met George Moore (1852–1933) and William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Throughout his life Russell was an active, public participant in Irish cultural and economic life. In 1897, at the behest of Horace Plunkett (1854-1932), Russell, was employed by the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society to oversee its co-operative credit banking system. This role meant that Russell travelled the length and breadth of Ireland in his efforts to improve the working methods and economic conditions for Ireland’s rural population. His cultural activities included the publication of numerous collections of poetry beginning in the 1890s, he was a designer for his play ‘Deirdre’ (1902) at the Abbey theatre, and in the 1900s he exhibited paintings in a number of group shows which included the work of the Count and Countess Markievicz (1874–1932) and (1868 –1927), William Leech (1881–1968) and Dermod O’Brien (1865-1945). He was supporter of the United Arts Club and was on the management committee of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, founded by Hugh Lane in 1908. With assistance of Susan Mitchell (1866-1926), in 1905 Russell was appointed editor of the Irish Homestead, the weekly publication of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. In its pages Russell addressed cultural, economic and agricultural issues. In 1923, the ‘Irish Homestead’ was incorporated with the Irish Statesman, with Russell continuing as editor until 1930. In 1903, Russell illustrated the cover for ‘The Passionate Hearts’ by Ethna Carbery (pseudonym of Anna McManus née Johnston, 1866–1902) . His work also appeared in publications including ‘The Book of St Ultan; a collection of pictures and poems by Irish artists and writers’ (1920), ‘Irish life and landscape’ (1927) and the periodical ‘The Irish Review’. Trinity College Library has in its collection two publications which include original drawings by George Russell ‘The candle of vision’ (London, 1928) and the privately printed ‘Verses for friends’ (1932).

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