A portait of a fine artist


Leo Whelan’s self-portrait is one of the more charming paintings to be sold in Dublin next week

A STUNNING self-portrait by Leo Whelan may not be the most expensive lot in Whyte’s Irish and British Art auction on Monday but it is certainly the most striking lot in the sale. Titled The Mirror, and painted in 1912 when the artist was just 20 years old, it looks like possibly the best buy of the year with an estimate of €15,000-€20,000. Auctioneer Ian Whyte described the painting as “drippingly good”.

Whelan was a pupil of Sir William Orpen at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and began painting at his home in 65 Eccles Street. When he died of leukemia in 1956, at the age of aged 64, an obituary in The Irish Times noted his fame as a portrait artist and talent for Dutch-style kitchen interiors.

Some of his best-known paintings are in the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and the National Gallery of Ireland. In the decades following his death, interest in Leo Whelan declined when abstract modern art, which he deplored, became fashionable. The record price for his work at auction was achieved in 2007, when a painting by him, Waiting, sold for €265,000 at de Veres.

Viewing for the auction begins at 10am this morning at the RDS and other highlights include two watercolours by Harry Kernoff. Davy Byrne’s Pub, Duke Street, From The Bailey, Dublin (1941) depicts the view from inside the Bailey to Davy Byrne’s opposite and has an estimate of €30,000-€35,000. That might seem steep, but Kernoff’s oil painting of the same image was acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland 12 years ago for €130,000.

Also by Kernoff is Liberty Hall, Dublin, a watercolour with an estimate of €25,000-€30,000. The painting is dated 1934 and was done from memory. The building depicted – bastion of rebel James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army – was destroyed by British artillery during the 1916 Rising when the artist was 16 years-old. The current Liberty Hall building was constructed in the 1960s.

Crossing the City by Jack B Yeats (1929) is estimated at €100,000-€150,000. An unusual self-portrait by Monaghan-born, Dublin-based artist George Collie, who died in 1975, shows the artist wearing a silk top hat, carrying a feather duster and brandishing an old, red 10-shilling note (€4,000-€6,000).

Lot 163, Castlehaven (From South Reen), Cork by John Kelly, with an estimate of €5,000-€7,000, is being sold to raise funds for Special Olympics, Ireland.