WHYTE’S NOVEMBER ART AUCTION DELIVERS 133 OUTSTANDING WORKS BY THE MOST DESIRABLE IRISH ARTISTS WORTH €1.7 MILLION
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 from Wednesday to Friday 23-25 November, 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 26 & 27 November, 1pm to 5pm and Monday 28 November – day of sale - 10am to 4pm.
Louis le Brocquy is recognised as one of the most significant Irish artists of the twentieth century. During his long life as an artist, le Brocquy's output consisted of a series of distinct phases. A major phase was the 'Head' series, which began in the 1960s following a visit to the anthropological museum, Musée de l'Homme, in Paris. The head portrait series includes several of the celebrated Irish poet, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) whom le Brocquy had met as a child. Image of W.B. Yeats was carried out around fifty years after the death of the poet whose work continues to resonate. In discussing the portrait series, le Brocquy has commented that he saw the subjects less as famous or brilliant, but rather 'as vulnerable, especially poignant beings who have gone further than the rest of us and for that reason are more isolated and moving'. The cover lot in the sale, Image of W.B. Yeats, 1989 (lot 52, €120,000-€180,000) represents the artist at his best and deserves to be viewed ‘in the flesh’ to be fully appreciated. deserves to be viewed ‘in the flesh’ to be fully appreciated.
The other top lot by value is a signature example by Paul Henry. Turf Stacks in the West, c.1934-36 (lot 18, €120,000-€180,000) appears to hold its breath in brooding silence in the wake of civil war and partition, a time when Henry found himself living in a different jurisdiction to his birthplace and family in Belfast. Dr Mary Cosgrove writes in her catalogue note ‘Henry had the ability to edit the scene and fuse reality with emotion, to find beauty and powerful significance in the small rainclouds rising slowly over enduring mountains after spent storms, in the contrasting colours of bog and mountain and in the human presence of hand-built stacks.
For much of the late 1880s and early 1890s Walter Osborne worked in a number of villages in England, painting many rural scenes, coastal subjects and landscapes, and producing some of his finest work. There his love for rural subjects deepened and his mature naturalistic style developed. Sunshine and Blossom (lot 9, €100,000-€150,000, illustrated above), painted in the English countryside, possibly in Hampshire in 1885, depicts a boy standing in a meadow tending cattle, the trees in blossom, on a sunny spring day. Behind is a wall and a white-washed cottage with thatched roof, and a hazy blue sky. The scene is lit by a blond, pearly light, giving a mood of stillness and harmony. Sunshine and Blossom has not been seen in public in Ireland for many years, having been in a private collection in Denmark. Its appearance in Dublin is an exciting discovery, and sheds new light upon Osborne's rich oeuvre.
Although Roderic O’Conor was born in Ireland, and attended art school in Dublin, his work only became more widely known here in the late 1950s. Much of O’Conor’s career was spent in Belgium and France. Head of a Breton Boy (lot 13, €60,000-€80,000, illustrated above) was painted around 1893, only a year before O'Conor would befriend Gauguin on his return from his first trip to Tahiti. Brittany for both men was a region largely untouched by industrialisation, proudly independent and with its own distinctive culture, language and religious practices. His most original figurative works date from the years 1892-94 when he developed his distinctive 'striped' application of line and colour, a style that he even extended into the faces and hands of his models. The Irishman's thickly applied brushstrokes, loaded with unblended colours, were so radical that they can only be compared with the methods of Van Gogh, an artist he was amongst the very first to appreciate. It is similar to, and compares well, with Breton Boy In Profile sold at at Christie’s on 17 June 2019 for €380,000 plus buyers’ premium. That painting was more noceably ‘striped’ and now hangs, rightly, in the Musée d’Orsay Paris, beside masterpieces by his great friend Gauguin. This wonderful work seems very reasonably estimated and will surely attract some very competitive bidding.
Well-known during his lifetime for his portrayal of the life of the people of Aran, Unloading the Turf Boat (lot 22, €80,000-€120,000, illustrated above) by Seán Keating dates stylistically to somewhere between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Having met and worked with Robert Flaherty during the filming of Man of Aran in the early 1930s, Keating purchased a cine camera, the footage from which he used, along with his own photographs and sketches, to assist with the composition of paintings to fulfil the ever-increasing demand from his patrons at home and abroad for images of the Aran Islands. The close-up composition of Unloading the Turf is an art historical device derived from photography, and seen in the work of Degas, for example. It is used to create a more intimate environment for the viewer. As the sun sets, reflected in the calm waters, a two-man currach sets out to sea.
Although By The Pool (lot 33, €20,000-€30,000, illustrated above) dates to 1962 - a period in Mary Swanzy's oeuvre characterised by satire and the fantastical - the present work in terms of its style and subject matter does not neatly fall into this category but rather appears to draw on elements of different phases from earlier in her career. By The Pool is a testament to Mary Swanzy's unique absorption of Modernism. Unlike many of her contemporaries she did not fully commit to any one style to the exclusion of others, she consumed it all and created her own visual language which, much like the Mannerist Madonna in the foreground, is experimental and unapologetic. Other notable examples on offer from leading Irish female artist’s include two important works from Mainie Jellett. Composition, 1936 (lot 31, €25,000-€35,000 illustrated left) was executed thirteen years after Jellett first exposed art audiences in Ireland to abstraction at the Society of Dublin Painters exhibition in autumn of 1923. It was widely condemned by critics at that time. The sizable oil on canvas example is characteristic of her style in the 1930s when she had moved away from the pure abstraction of the 1920s towards a semi-abstract figurative style. Lot 32, Abstract Composition (€8,000-€12,000) is a smaller example in gouache which is sure to attract competitive bidding also. Norah McGuinness is represented in the sale with an oil titled Bog, Cotton and Heather (lot 36, €10,000-€15,000). The work was purchased through the Dawson Gallery and has been in a private collection since.
In September Whyte’s achieved a record price for a William Scott gouache when Chinese Orange III fetched a hammer price of €110,000. Still Life with Saucepan, 1968 (lot 48, illustrated above) is another example from the series and at an estimate of €60,000-€80,000 is sure to attract attention from the September underbidders. Scott is recognised as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. His reputation is based on his ability to abstract from ordinary objects, recognising the profound potential of the familiar.
Colin Middleton is represented in the sale by two oils from different periods of his career. Tierra del Fuego: The Wilderness of Fiorenza Cossotto, 1972-74 (lot 44, €30,000-€50,000, illustrated above) is from the Wilderness Series, which is arguably the most important of the extensive series of works on which he embarked in the 1970s, revisiting his interest in surrealism and also integrating many aspects of his early training and work in design with his mature painting. They are complicated works, full of autobiographical references as well as technical experimentation. The Park: Coleraine, 1956 (lot 43, €25,000-€35,000) begins to establish a more abstract rendering of forms that anticipates Middleton's less representational work in the 1960s. The heightened use of local colour matches the repeated stylised shapes to create an intense and vivid pattern across the canvas and maintains the exuberance of Middleton's north Down landscapes of the mid-1950s.
Watch out for…an important work by Peter Curling, lot 98, A Mistake by the Leader (€30,000-€40,000 aswell as two sizeable oils by Irish street artist Conor Harrington who has achieved great prices at auction in recent years. There are also important works on offer from John Shinnors, Daniel O’Neill, Anthony Scott and Cecil Maguire, aswell as examples from auction favourites Arthur Maderson, Markey Robinson and Graham Knuttel.
All the artworks are on display at www.whytes.ie with full descriptions and several with insightful notes from art experts. The auction will be broadcast live on the internet at bid.whytes.ie, invaluable.com, auctionzip.com and encheres.lefigaro.fr; collectors around the world can bid live from their computers, smart TV’s, mobile phones or android devices. The venue for the viewing (23-28 November) is our galleries at 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 and the venue for the live auction on 28 November is The Freemasons Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. There is ample off-street parking there.