Bill Scott’s ‘Blue Still Life’ is star of the season
Large scale still life attracting big interest from abroad
William Scott’s Blue Still Life. Six feet by four feet in size, and painted in 1969 using his signature rich Mediterranean blues in Whyte’s sale on May 29th
With two major Irish and international art sales coming down the tracks the week after next, it’s hard to know how to sum up the collective riches on offer. A galaxy of paintings, perhaps? There will certainly be a stellar array available to buyers .
On Wednesday, May 31st, art from the collection of the late Gillian Bowler, founding chairwoman of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma), will be sold at Adam’s. More on that next week. For now, though, there’s more than enough to admire among the 183 lots of Whyte’s sale on Monday, May 29th.
At the heart of the auction are a number of larger-than-life works from the collection of the Donegal-born art dealer George McClelland, who died last year. But the biggest picture, in every sense, has to be William Scott’s Blue Still Life. Six feet by four feet in size, and painted in 1969 using his signature rich-Mediterranean blues, it is reckoned to be the most valuable ever to appear in an Irish art auction.
“We like to claim him as one of our own, but Scott is regarded as one of the leading British artists in the world, up there with Henry Moore. Even Bacon would be mentioned in the same breath,” says Ian Whyte. Scott’s prices haven’t quite risen to the dizzying heights of Moore and Bacon, but with 1950s British art on the crest of a wave, he’s getting there. Blue Still Life, which is Lot 58 and carries an estimate of €400,000-€600,000, has attracted huge interest from London and farther afield.
Those who don’t have half a million euro to spare might consider bagging themselves Scott’s 1972 screenprint, Alexander Suite: Lines with Breadth Supercede (Lot 62, €2,000-€3,000). Print collecting is becoming more popular in Ireland as young collectors realise it’s a great way to acquire work by sought-after names at a relatively modest price; and this sale also includes a number of prints by Louis le Brocquy as well as two prints by Jack Butler Yeats, Kelp-Burning and By Memory Inspired (Lots 24 and 25, €8,000-€10,000 and €5,000-€7,000).
Three large canvases by Tony O’Malley, meanwhile, are among the last “big” O’Malley works from the McClelland collection. “We have a few small ones as well – and that will be the end of it, so hopefully anybody who wanted to get a Tony O’Malley from this collection will get one,” Whyte says. The large paintings – the blue, green and grey Island Inscape, the sun-soaked Outdoor Studio No 1 from O’Malley’s Bahamas Series and a more sombre Old Field, Carbine Bridge, Callan, Co Kilkenny – carry estimates of €12,000 to €15,000 (Lots 65, 68 and 71) while a tiny still life, Fruit on a Windowsill (Lot 60), is very affordable at €1,000 to €1,500.
Another towering presence in the sale is Louis le Brocquy’s Adam and Eve in the Garden. A nine-feet-wide, five feet-high tapestry which was made in 1951, its colours are as vibrant and subtle as if it had been completed yesterday. (Lot 38, €80,000-€120,000). A tiny sculpture in wood by FE McWilliam is expected to punch well above its weight: just over 16 inches high, Man and Wife is one of the first pieces the Banbridge sculptor made in the 1930s under the influence of his friend and mentor Henry Moore (Lot 55, €70,000-€90,000).
Paul Henry’s An Irish Bog contains all the elements that make Henry so desired by collectors in the US and elsewhere: a sky with dramatic clouds, blue mountains on the horizon and turf stacks reflected in bog water. Fans of Irish landscape painting won’t be short of an alternative as this sale contains works by Percy French, Frank McKelvey, Kenneth Webb, William Leech, Grace Henry, Harry Kernoff, Norah McGuinness, James Humbert Craig and Colin Middleton, whose 1953 study of harvested fields, Evening Sun, carries an estimate of €10,000-€15,000.
Other famous names whose work will come under the hammer at Whyte’s include Basil Blackshaw, Barrie Cooke, Camille Souter and Gerard Dillon. Six watercolour drawings by actor and impresario Michéal MacLiammóir to illustrate a book of early Irish hero-tales are being sold in three pairs (Lots 33-35, €2,000- €3,000 each pair) while Bert Stern’s 1965 photograph of Twiggy standing in front of a painting by Bridget Reilly (Lot 111) has an estimate of €5,000 to €7,000.
Whyte’s, 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. Sale of Irish and International Art is at the RDS on Tuesday, May 29th, at 6pm. Viewing at the RDS May 27th-29th, 10am to 6pm. See whytes.ie