George W. Russell (AE Æ),- His Life, Paintings and Impact on Irish Culture

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George W. Russell (AE Æ),- His Life, Paintings and Impact on Irish Culture


George William Russell (Æ), poet, painter, statesman and friend of many. George Russell definitely was all of those things. But why is it that I, a visiting student from the far North, takes such an interest in a man who despite his greatness not many people outside Ireland has heard of. When asked about visual arts in Ireland, names like Jack
Yeats, Paul Henry and James Barry might be heard but only people with a deep interest in Irish culture will also mention George W. Russell, or Æ as he is more commonly known. But Æ Russell was, and still is,
Irish culture, which is what I will try to prove to you with this paper. My first encounter with Æ
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Yeats and John Hughes. Although George Russell attended a number of schools up until the age of 18, moving more and more towards the direction of visual art, he never attended university and he seems to be mostly self-taught after his early school years.

It was in 1884 that George Russell first started taking an interest in the mystical world and the occult, which also can be seen in his paintings and poems. This also led up to the creation of his pseudonym
Æ. After painting a series of pictures that shown the development of man, George Russell was “haunted” for a name for his paintings. One night in a dream, he heard a voice saying “Call it the birth Aeon”
(Aön), After looking up the word in a library, George Russell found out that the word “Aeon” was used by the Gnostics to represent the first created men. For a while he then started using “Aeon” as a signature on his work, but later shortening it to Æ, which is how he’s now more commonly known. The first works with Æ as signature appeared in 1888.

From pictures and drawings of Æ Russell that I’ve studied, his physical appearance in early years was that of a small and thin boy with a nice appearance. In his more mature years, Æ Russell grew to be a fairly tall, well proportioned but also heavy built man. Most of his life he wore a beard and in my view he looked somewhat imposing. But Æ
Russell also had a “loud voice” and didn’t mind speaking his thoughts.
Although he was born in

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