The Irish Connection

Amongst the leading Irish intellectuals who corresponded with Albert Bender were Walter Starkie of the Abbey Theatre and Trinity College, the writers Oliver St. John Gogarty, George Russell (AE), Ella Young and Kathleen O’Brennan, and the entire Yeats family – William, Jack, Lily and Elizabeth. It is in the letters of Kathleen O’Brennan and Ella Young where the greatest insights into his reasons behind the donations of Asian art to the National Museum can be found.

His relationships with some of Ireland’s leading writers, which initially developed from his passion for book collecting, are addressed in a flipbook in the main gallery of the exhibition. Of particular interest is the fact that as a result of these contacts Albert Bender was kept well informed of contemporary developments in Ireland such as the Civil War and the emerging independent State, all of which would have encouraged him in his idea of donating to the land of his birth.

Albert Bender corresponded with several important figures of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Revival’ (literary and artistic renaissance) of the early years of the twentieth century. One of them was the poet, editor, dramatist and painter George Russell (AE). AE had spent some time in Albert Bender’s San Francisco home while he was in the United States. AE and Walter Starkie of the Abbey Theatre were key in encouraging Albert Bender’s initial donations to the National Museum.

Albert Bender also wrote and received letters from the artist Jack B. Yeats. Unlike his friendship with AE, Bender and Yeats never actually met, but corresponded with each other from 1934. In August of that year Jack Yeats presented Albert Bender with one of his sketchbooks from his first visit to the Aran Islands in 1899. This is a significant sketchbook in the artist’s development regarding his contemporary illustrations and later work for articles by J.M. Synge in 1905 for the Manchester Guardian on life in the West of Ireland.

Download a special article about the sketchbook, originally published in the Irish Arts Review:
Yeats and Bender: A Time of Gifts 2 Yeatspdf.pdf (0.44 MB, Adobe PDF) 

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