Whyte's in 2019
Posted On 02/01/2020
WHYTE'S IN 2019
The Ernie O’Malley Collection
Comprised of 100 lots, also including early sketches by Yeats and work by the artists Mainie Jellett, Evie Hone, Louis le Brocquy, Colin Middleton, Maurice MacGonigal, May Guinness and Norah McGuinness among others, the auction formed an anthology of Irish art from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Ernie O’Malley was a leading revolutionary an in Ireland from 1916-22 who went on topublish two books detailing his experiences. The sale and international exhibitions provided an opportunity to discover his private passion for art and the relationships he developed with artists he encountered in America and Ireland.
The highlights were:
Jack B. Yeats paintings Reverie, €1.4 million, a new world record for the artist (illustrated below)
Jack B. Yeats Evening in Spring, €1.3 millionJack B. Yeats The Enfolding Night,€520,000Jack B. Yeats Death For The Only One,€470,000Jack B. Yeats The Fighting Dawn, €320,000Jack B. Yeats sketchbook broken into 33 single lots, sold from €700 to €14,000 each, totalling nearly €78,000
Other notable prices were achieved for:Mainie Jellett's, The Land Éire (lot 59) at €140,000, a new world record for the artist (illustrated below)
Colin Middleton, Saint John Retrospect €45,000Louis le Brocquy, Tinker Diviner, €36,000.Earlier in 2019 some astonishing prices were paid for extraordinary examples by Ireland’s most sought-after artists. €210,000 was paid for a sizeable (31½ by 31½in) oil painting by Louis le Brocquy of Samuel Beckett dating to 1980 on 16 September (lot 65). This was €10,000 more than was paid for an even larger oil (46 by 35in.) of the same subject last year (26/11/2018, lot 55).
Whyte’s spring auction on 4 March 2019 saw competitive bidding on oils by Jack Yeats with €150,000 paid for Justice, 1946 (lot 22) and €115,000 for A Passage is Required, 1953 (lot 19). The former came from a private collection of an estate in Canada, was fresh to the market and reached the upper estimate. The latter had failed to sell in a London house when offered in 2000 and sold with Whyte’s at €15,000 above the low estimate. In the same March sale €66,000 was achieved for A Kerry Bog, 1934-1935 by Paul Henry and €54,000 for James Humbert Craig’s oil painting for his most famous poster Flax Growing, Northern Ireland, 1927 commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board and the Ulster Ministry of Commerce.
The summer sale on 27 May 2019 continued the trend for aggressive bidding on the top names with €100,000 crossing hands for another Paul Henry masterpiece – also painted in the mid to late nineteen thirties - Western Landscape, c.1935-40 (lot 16). Further works by Sir John Lavery (Mary in Black, c.1904, lot 26) and – again – Jack Butler Yeats a modest 9 by 14in oil with an extensive exhibition history (The Quay Worker's Home, 1927, lot 39) commanded €75,000 and €68,000 respectively. Meanwhile, the hammer fell at mid-range estimate on a desirable still life - Flowers In A Vase, Still Life, lot 35a by William John Leech – at €60,000. This work had been bought by Whyte’s client in London in May 2002 (during the boom) for £35,000 GBP, proving once again that Irish Art sells best in Ireland and with Whyte’s!
“WOKE” BIDDERS AMONG “SLEEPERS”Irish Female artists enjoyed particular success this year and were championed by aggressive bidders in Whyte’s salerooms. In addition to the world record price paid for the Mainie Jellett from the O’Malley sale (25/11/19, lot 59) already mentioned, some encouraging spikes could be seen for other artists earlier in the year. May Guinness’ Woman with Red Hair (16/09/19, lot 48) soared above the pre-sale guide of €6,000-€8,000 with a staggering hammer price of €34,000 paid, another auction record for that artist.
On the back of a record price in 2018 for her Self Portrait, c.1914 (Whyte’s, 26/11/2018, lot 22) Margaret Clarke (née Crilley, wife of stained-glass artist Harry Clarke) achieved her second highest result at auction with the Double Portrait of Two Girls (4/03/19, lot 13, hammer €24,000). A beautiful work in marble, Head, 1969, by the lesser spotted Gerda Frömel fetched €9,000 (25/11/19, lot 68) just shy of a new auction record for her work. A steady increase in results for works on paper by Mary Swanzy was also notice during the year with studies, guided from €600 fetching at least €1,000 and frequently more. The increase in awareness and interest in acquiring works by Irish female artists could perhaps be attributed to the thoughtful programming by IMMA and the National Gallery among others.A beautiful work in marble, Head, 1969, by the lesser spotted Gerda Frömel fetched €9,000 (25/11/19, lot 68) just shy of a new auction record for her work. A steady increase in results for works on paper by Mary Swanzy was also notice during the year with studies, guided from €600 fetching at least €1,000 and frequently more. The increase in awareness and interest in acquiring works by Irish female artists could perhaps be attributed to the thoughtful programming by IMMA and the National Gallery among others.
ECLECTIC COLLECTORS SPENT WELL AT WHYTE’SWhyte’s annual “Eclectic Collector” sale on 6 April brought in about €500,000. The sale included an original final Draft of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement signed by most of the leading participants, which made €28,000.
The annual “Eclectic Collector” sale on 6 April brought in about €500,000. The sale included an original final Draft of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement signed by most of the leading participants, which made €28,000. A rifle used in the 1916 Rising made £10,500 and a 1980s Rocket launcher of a type used in The Troubles sold for €10,000 to a Belfast museum and attracted some controversy. A 1943 Central Bank Irish twenty pounds note sold for €10,500 while a rare 1985 twenty pence coin made €5,400. The latter result has encouraged a lot of forgeries, emanating mainly from Asia, but they are easily detected by numismatic experts.
The most unusual sale of the year was Whyte’s auction of Seamus Kearns’s Picture Postcard Collection in January. With over 100,000 cards, mainly dating from circa 1900 to circa 1950, the collection was expected to gross around €60,000 to €80,00, but it made around €150,000 including buyer’s premium. Every lot sold, making it another “white glove” sale.