Island of the Setting Sun inspired the work of famous artist Jo Baer

Island of the Setting Sun inspired the work of famous artist Jo Baer

It's not every day you discover that your written work has inspired a famous artist. 

Jo Baer is an American painter whose works are displayed in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, among many other art museums.

Artist Jo Baer

Artist Jo Baer is 93 and lives in Amsterdam. Photo: YouTube

She lived for a time in Los Angeles and spent 15 years living in New York City, before moving to Smarmore Castle, in County Louth, Ireland, in 1975. She lived there for seven years before moving to London. She has lived in Amsterdam since 1984.

An exhibition of her work titled Coming Home Late: Jo Baer In the Land of the Giants is currently on display at the Highlanes Gallery here in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

Richard Moore at Jo Baer's exhibition

Richard Moore at Jo Baer's exhibition at the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda.

Some time ago, my good friend and co-author of our book Island of the Setting Sun, the artist Richard Moore, drew my attention to the fact that Baer had drawn some inspiration for her ‘In the Land of the Giants’ series from our book.

Murphy and Moore reference Jo Baer

A reference to our work in the catalogue for In the Land of the Giants.

Today, we visited the Highlanes Gallery to view the work and we were delighted to see that, in the official publication accompanying the exhibition, Jo Baer credits us in several places.

Island of the Setting Sun citation Jo Baer

Viewing her paintings, I could immediately see that Baer was “on our wavelength”, so to speak. There are standing stones, and megalithic monuments such as Knowth, and the constellation Orion, and Baer was also interested in old straight track alignments and what she called “ancient trade routes”.

Murphy and Moore reference Jo Baer

Another reference to our work by Jo Baer.

The first painting we viewed, ‘Spirals and Stars’, painted in 2012, seemed instantly familiar. It features a holed stone from near Smarmore, Co. Louth, and Cú Chulainn’s pillar stone, also in Louth, the one which he tied himself to when dying.

“Here he is immortalized to Orion,” the description reads, “the preferred heavenly destination for most warriors’ spirits.”

Ireland's Stonehenge Jo Baer

Ireland's Stonehenge in Jo Baer's 'Time-Line'.

Another painting, ‘Time-Line (Spheres, Angles and the Negative of the 2nd Derivative)’, features an alignment from two Hurlestones north towards ‘Ireland’s Stonehenge’, a destroyed monument at Ballynahattin, Co. Louth (documented in Island of the Setting Sun) and south towards the megalithic complex of Knowth at Brú na Bóinne.

A pair of mirrored (although not identical) paintings, which form a diptych, are very interesting because they seem to draw upon a particular aspect of our work in Island of the Setting Sun involving a long-distance alignment across Ireland from east to west involving sites sacred to Saint Patrick.

Dawn (Lines and Destinations) by Jo Baer

Dawn (Lines and Destinations) by Jo Baer features the Patrick alignment.

The caption for ‘Dawn (Lines and Destinations)’ reads: “…light is cast around the Hurlstone Jo Baer came upon while riding on the grounds of County Louth’s Smarmore Castle – the unheated 30-plus-room castle she lived in from 1975 to 1982. There are stone circles from County Louth as well as the Orkney Islands. The artist attends to sites that gain significance during equinoxes, when day and night are equal, an interest in Ireland since at least Neolithic times: across the painting’s lower edge the sun’s passage is charted over Croagh Patrick in the lower left, and on right, Hill of Slane, famed for sitting along the 135-mile spring equinox alignment. The artist notes that it was on that hill that St. Patrick announced the advent of Christianity with his torch aimed at Tara, such that this Irish sun’s east to west passage became known as St. Patrick’s Band”.

Watch the video about Jo Baer's exhibition on the Highlanes Gallery YouTube channel below.


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1 comment

Love it. I’m an artist, drawing (terrible pun) on the crossover of Irish Mythology into today’s world. Mythical Ireland just added to my list of references, and importantly – inspiration. Thanks Anthony and keep up the great work.

Anthony Quinn

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Anthony Murphy is the author of ten books, including works of non-fiction and fiction. As of 2024, all of these books are in print or available for digital download.