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John Butts was a little-known Irish painter whose variety in style can perhaps be explained by his reputed activities as a forger of Flemish landscapes. The enclosed and airless composition of this scene is reminiscent of the few known works by Butts. It shows a view in the Dargle valley in County Wicklow, about ten miles from Dublin. With its fast flowing river and steep mountainous gorge, the Dargle is a place of dramatic natural beauty. The two poachers, hiding behind the rocks, appear to be catching eels. The shot from the gamekeeper's gun, visible in the centre of the composition, adds to the tense mood of the awe-inspiring landscape.

September 2004