DUBLIN - After 6 years of a recession, auction results for many Irish artists are now rising so now is the time to buy. Like property, there is huge demand for quality and a finite number of rare and highly desirable items coming to the market. Shrewd collectors recognise this and are honing in on superior examples when they appear. Whyte’s 26 May auction offers collectors and museums over ˆ1 million worth of art including many outstanding works, several never before seen at auction.
Two masters of twentieth century Irish painting lead Whyte’s May auction with wonderful paintings capturing Irish life on the east and west coasts of the island. Gerard Dillon’s Home with the Catch (lot 62, estimated at ˆ60,000-80,000) depicts with characteristic charm the Connemara patriarch returning to his family with two fish in his hand. Belfast born Dillon was captivated by the west and, along with his Northern contemporaries Daniel O’Neill, George Campbell and Nevill Johnson, was pivotal in creating a new identity for Irish art through a very modern reading of the landscape and its inhabitants. This major painting from his oeuvre was shown in Dublin and London in 1947 and has remained in the same private collection since. Securing this work in one’s private collection would be a major coup!
Similarly, Nano Reid’s important and impressive painting, Salmon Fishing on the Boyne (lot 60, ˆ25,000-ˆ35,000) dates to the same period and depicts Reid’s native Drogheda which she explored and painted regularly with Dillon. Both artists were celebrated recently for their combined achievements and it is a serendipitous pleasure that two such significant examples appear together in the same auction. Four other examples by Reid - including the well-known oil, Bathers at Mornington (lot 63, ˆ4,000-ˆ6,000) - are also offered.
The vision of Mainie Jellett and her role as pioneer of Cubism in Ireland is manifested in Painting 1930 (lot 52, ˆ20,000-ˆ30,000). This early work was shown at an exhibition of Irish Art in Brussels the year it was painted and represents an artistic legacy that revolutionised the concept of Irish painting. Jellett and her female contemporaries trail-blazed European trends in Irish art in unique ways. Painting 1930 shows Jellett’s method of ‘translation and rotation’ in depicting a religious subject. The flat treatment and limited palette allow the viewer to focus on the complex composition and enjoy the art deco patterning that decorate the picture plane.
Lot 48, Trees (ˆ15,000-ˆ18,000) by Mary Swanzy also shows an awareness of trends on the Continent. Cubism, Orphicism, Vorticism and Futurism all play their role in Trees which was painted between the 1920s and 1930s. The painting comes from the family of the artist and, like the above example by Jellett, has never been seen before at auction. The bright palette and dynamic lines delight the eye and are testament to her world travels and artistic confidence.
The artistic exploits throughout Colin Middleton’s oeuvre demonstrate an insatiable appetite for experimentation. Lot 67, Seated Figure: 6.72 (ˆ25,000-ˆ35,000) dates to 1972 and shows the influence of his early training as a damask-designer in Belfast. Here, he moves away from his earlier Surrealist work to focus on form, composition and colour. Clearly the artist was pleased with this painting as it was exhibited at the Hendriks Gallery, Dublin, Arts Society Cork and at his Arts Council retrospective in 1976. An earlier oil, Celtic Icon, c.1963 (lot 70) guides ˆ3,000-ˆ5,000.
North African light became an obsession for Sir John Lavery who travelled to Morocco regularly between 1891 and 1920 and A Street in Tangier (lot 34, ˆ20,000-ˆ30,000) is an outstanding example from this period. Small oils like the present example, were painted not as preparations for larger works, but as ends in themselves; snapshots of familiar concerns that definitively caught the ‘white atmosphere’ of exotic Tangier. Here under a vivid cobalt canopy a marquetry of streets, whitewashed houses and sharp shadows glow in the sunlight – their irregular shapes, performing an abstract theatre, that momentarily disorientates the western eye.
Light and landscape in the West was Paul Henry’s fascination and the drama of Ireland’s changeable weather is superbly captured in this 8in square oil. The dominant cumulous clouds, dappled light on the blue mountain and dotted turf stacks represent all the necessary elements for a Henry. This punchy work titled Turf Stacks with Mountain Beyond, c.1940 (lot 36, ˆ15,000-ˆ20,000) offers those with a more modest budget the opportunity to acquire a signature scene by one of the country’s best-known names. Other desirable landscapes by Walter Osborne, Frank McKelvey, James Humbert Craig and Charles Lamb will delight admirers of this genre.
A Patriot, c.1902 by Jack B. Yeats (lot 33, ˆ15,000-ˆ20,000) is a wonderful early watercolour. Yeats was an avid recorder of daily life and here we see him peak through an open door to reveal a man seated at his fireplace. The significance of the title can be found in the portrait of the Irish rebel leader Robert Emmet which takes pride of place above the mantel. Cartoon sketches by Yeats also feature in the sale (lots 31 & 32, estimates from ˆ2,000-ˆ4,000) while the indispensable limited edition Catalogue Raisonné of his works by Hilary Pyle is sure to appeal to researchers and aficionados alike (lot 32A, ˆ700-900).
The Taylor Gallery, Belfast (in administration) was one of the leading art galleries in Northern Ireland and had established a reputation, not just for Irish paintings and sculpture, but also for works by international artists such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Henry Moore, Joan Miró, and, more recently, in street artists such as Banksy all of which are included in this sale. The bankable Banksy and Hirst have become a household name in recent years while Andy Warhol’s appeal hasn’t waivered since the late 1960s. For those with avant-garde taste these contemporary pieces are sure to satisfy. Also from the Taylor collection are two beautiful watercolours by Louis le Brocquy, the ethereal Being (lot 117, ˆ8,000-ˆ10,000) and evocative The Curragh (lot 116, ˆ4,000-ˆ5,000) landscape as well as vibrant watercolours by Neil Shawcross with guides from as little as ˆ600.
Watch out for… the first 14 lots by Percy French (estimates from ˆ700), rare views of Dublin painted during the 1916 Rising (lot 15, ˆ3,000-ˆ5,000), lot 27 an early watercolour by Mildred Anne Butler that has been included in nearly every major exhibition of her work (ˆ3,000-ˆ5,000) a magical oil by Lady Beatrice Glenavy (lot 47, ˆ5,000-ˆ7,000) shown at the IELA in 1950, a large Equestrian painting by Patrick Hennessy, Strand, 1977 (lot 176, ˆ6,000-ˆ8,000) shown at the RHA and William Scott watercolours (lots 84 & 85, ˆ4,000-ˆ5,000 each). Among the other well-known names in the sale are, Norah McGuinness, Sarah Purser, Evie Hone, William Conor, Patrick Collins, Seán Keating, John Shinnors, Donald Teskey and Markey Robinson to name but a few.