Whyte’s Autumn auction of Irish & International art promises to deliver another exciting opportunity for collectors to acquire rare artworks of outstanding quality and enduring value. On Monday 2 October 2023 154 lots of Irish & International art will be offered for auction at Whyte’s.
The auction will take place at the Freemasons Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 and online at bid.whytes.ie. Viewing takes place at Whyte’s Galleries in Molesworth Street from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September 10am to 5pm, Saturday 30 September and Sunday 1 October, 1pm to 5pm and Monday 2 October – day of sale - 10am to 4pm.
The cover lot, The Currach, Kilronan (lot 30, €60,000-€80,000, illustrated above) is a tranquil West of Ireland scene by Belfast born artist Gerard Dillon. During the 1940s Dillon spent time with George Campbell in Connemara. On a holiday visit to Aran Mór, Dillon made a number of paintings celebrating the life and dislocated culture of the Island. In a letter to Madge Connolly it is clear he relishes the desolate, primitive nature of the landscape and crashing seascapes. He declares to her: 'My God, It was the most glorious holiday I've ever had'. The letter included eleven drawings, with one of Kilronan village, originally a fishing village. As demonstrated by this painting, the West of Ireland sparked the artist’s imagination, allowing him to purposefully reframe the original visual impulse into a more intriguing scenario.
Introduced to the Aran Islands by his friend, Harry Clarke, in 1912, Seán Keating found himself as an artist there so much so that he became synonymous with the location during his lifetime. Still Waters (lot 19, €60,000-€80,000 illustrated above) is one of a series of images representing the island people painted after the artist acquired his cinecamera. The painting illustrates a sequence of scenes that Keating observed using his cinecamera while on the islands, and then put together to compose the work. As the sun sets in the west, it is the end of a busy day on the islands and on the sea. In the foreground, two women in west of Ireland shawls are huddled in conversation while a gathering of island men listen intently. Exhibited in the RHA in 1947, Still Waters, was purchased from the exhibition by a long-standing friend who had known Seán Keating from the days of the War of Independence. A frequent purchaser of the artist's work in the late 1940s, it is tempting to consider that the image presented something of a stark contrast to the era of tumult during which the two had first become friends.
An important watercolour by John Lavery titled He Won’t Bite You is on offer as lot 12 in the sale (€20,000-€30,000, illustrated above). Although its subject - an infant's cautious encounter with a curious dog in a Scottish garden - appears inconsequential at first, the work gives us an early glimpse into the wealthy middle-class enclave of the Renfrewshire town of Paisley. Having exhibited at the town's Art Institute, John Lavery had recently secured the patronage of two of its most prominent citizens - James and Joseph Fulton, whose ancestors had introduced silk manufacture to Scotland in the eighteenth century. They owned the hillside estate known as the Glen. In return for his services, the painter was given free range of the estate and was offered Burn Cottage within walking distance of the house as a studio. The soft colours of the hillside garden, overlooking the roofs and gables are noteworthy at a time when the artist’s use of watercolour was at its height.
Perhaps best known as the great artistic chronicler of working class life in Northern Ireland, William Conor was apprenticed as a lithographer after leaving art school but was determined to be an artist. This exceptional work, By Lough Beag (lot 16, €15,000-€20,000, illustrated above), sees him in a notably sunny mood. The little lake of the title is north of the vast Lough Neagh. There is a small island on the lake, as there is in the middle distance of this painting. However, in reality the surrounding topography is rather less dramatic than the fine mountainous prospect that Conor paints here. That is not unusual for him: he was well known for making studies of figures (and animals) and keeping them until he found a background that he felt suited them.
An early oil, Fair Day, Dunboyne, c.1910 (€5,000-€7,000, illustrated above) by Letitia Hamilton is listed as lot 7. The artist was born at Hamwood House near the Meath town and the work depicts a bustling market scene. Described by Hilary Pyle as a typical 'horse Protestant', she enjoyed a privileged start in life: educated at Alexandra College and then studied art under William Orpen at the Dublin Metropolitan School. The latter partly, no doubt, through the influence of her cousin Rose Barton, then an established professional artist. Barton’s charming watercolour Nassau Street, From Outside the Kildare Street Club, Dublin (lot 8, €6,000-€8,000) is listed as lot 8 in the sale. The work was originally in the collection of successful racehorse owner and breeder Victor Hugh Harry McCalmont and was included in the Crawford Gallery’s retrospective exhibition in 1987.
Genieve Figgis’ Lemon Queen (lot 66, €25,000-€35,000, illustrated above) was included in an exhibition entitled Fictitious Possibilities at the Talbot Gallery in Dublin in 2013. In the show Figgis presented 'portrait' paintings of religious and historical art icons as well as royalty, seen here. Much like the title of the exhibition, Figgis' journey to art world stardom reads like a fictitious possibility. In 2013 - a year after graduating from a masters in fine art from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin - the artist posted some of her work on the social media platform Twitter, where it attracted the attention of celebrated American painter and photographer Richard Prince (b.1949). He bought some of her work and subsequently introduced her to the New York art world. Up until that point she was creating work at her kitchen table, had no agent or gallery and was earning €10 an hour in a shop to get by. A decade later the artist's turnover on the secondary market alone stands at over €2.6m with her primary market place at auction in Hong Kong. She is now represented by the Helwaser Gallery in New York and has had numerous solo exhibitions. She has been the subject of countless articles, has been included in landmark exhibitions in the company of world renowned artists throughout the ages and has, among other projects, been commissioned by Dior to be the first Irish artist to reinterpret their iconic Lady Dior handbag. The journey from her kitchen table to the top of the art world in 10 years may seem out of this world, but it is very much Figgis's own reality.
This early work by John Shinnors (Picture of Christine Keller, lot 63, €15,000-€20,000, illustrated above) has a fascinating provenance. It was commissioned in 1980 by a friend and patron of the young artist who, during this period, was struggling to make a living from his work. It was prior to his major breakthrough following his GPA Award in 1984. The friend, though from Limerick, had lived and worked in London during the sixties and seventies. He was a jazz aficionado and got to know Christine Keeler through their mutual involvement in the vibrant London jazz scene of that period. A time when the Flamingo, Ronnie Scott's and The 100 Club were all thriving and Tubby Hayes was in his all too brief prime. After he settled back in Limerick he gave Shinnors a personal photograph of Keeler in this provocative pose complete with the leopard skin jacket (so apt for the Shinnors treatment) and asked him to produce a painting based on it. The subject was at the centre of a sex and spy scandal in the UK in 1963, resulting in the resignation of the Defence Minister John Profumo.
Watch out for… notable works by William Orpen, William Leech, Tony O’Malley, Norah McGuinness (illustrated above), Patrick Collins, Louis le Brocquy and more. There are small collections of works by William Percy French, Charles Lamb and Patrick Leonard. Sculpture includes works from Rowan Gillespie, John Behan and Brian Bourke.
There is a fascinating early portrait of Paul Henry by Robert Ponsonby Staples (lot 14, €5,000-€7,000, illustrated above). Auction favourites include Arthur Maderson, Cecil Maguire, Ciaran Clear, Mark O’Neill and a number of examples from the ever popular Graham Knuttel and Markey Robinson.
All the artworks are on display with full descriptions and several with insightful notes from art experts at www.whytes.ie.