Derek Hill was only in Donegal a few short years when he made his way further west to Tory Island and to what was perhaps his most important contribution to Irish Art – his encouragement and patronage of the Tory Island artists and in particular James Dixon.
The story is often told that James Dixon had never painted before meeting Derek Hill but it’s not entirely correct. Dixon does appear to have claimed that he “could do better” after watching Derek painting on the island one morning but some of Dixon’s paintings pre-date that first meeting. What is true is that Hill was impressed by Dixon’s confidence and supplied him with paint and paper, encouraging him at every turn. Dixon’s masterpiece ‘West End Village’, a bird’s eye view of one of the two small villages on Tory, hangs in the kitchen at St. Columb’s.
Spurred on by James Dixon’s success, other islanders began to paint, the best known are Patsy Dan Rodgers (the King of Tory), Ruairí Rodgers and Anton Meenan, all of whom have painted consistently for many decades now.
These islanders artists have created a unique and fascinating record of their small community and Tory Island life for over fifty years. The Derek Hill Collection at the Glebe house contains some of the finest examples of Tory Island folk art.