Gillian Bowler’s art is the star of summer sale

Late businesswoman’s collection is at centre of Adam’s ‘Important Irish Art’ auction

Gillian Bowler collection: Lot 46, The Bath by Patrick Collins

Gillian Bowler collection: Lot 46, The Bath by Patrick Collins

 

The founder of Budget Travel, the late Gillian Bowler, approached art collecting with the same energy and determination as she applied to business matters – when a painting by the English artist Albert Irvin proved to be too big for her Donnybrook mews house, she didn’t even blanch. She just raised the roof to accommodate it.

The late Gillian Bowler: Fifty of the paintings from her superb collection are at the centre of Adam’s summer auction of ‘Important Irish Art’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The late Gillian Bowler: Fifty of the paintings from her superb collection are at the centre of Adam’s summer auction of ‘Important Irish Art’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fifty of the paintings from her superb, mostly modern, collection are at the centre of Adam’s summer auction of “Important Irish Art”.

They include a female nude by Patrick Collins, The Bath, (Lot 46, estimate €20,000-€30,000) which belonged to Dubliners singer Luke Kelly and was acquired privately after his death in 1984.

Gillian Bowler collection at Adams: Lot 51, The Potato Field by Patrick Collins
Gillian Bowler collection at Adams: Lot 51, The Potato Patch by Patrick Collins

It is thought this is the first public viewing of the painting, one of four by Collins in the sale. The others are examples of his famously dreamy landscapes: Potato Patch (aka Lazy Beds) (Lot 51, €6,000-€8,000), Road Into A Green Mountain (Lot 50, €3,000-€5,000) and Flower Piece II (Lot 46, €3,000-€5,000).

There are a number of studies of the female form in the collection, including Barrie Cooke’s Blue Nude (Lot 113, €15,000-€20,000), which Bowler herself considered to be one of the artist’s best works, and Standing Nude by Basil Blackshaw (Lot 112, €7,000-€10,000).

Louis le Brocquy was a personal friend, and there are several of his works too: Fan Tailed Pigeons (Lot 7, €40,000-€60,000); Still Life of Fruit (Lot 8, €30,000-€50,000) and Two Studies of Joyce (Lot 9, €20,000-€30,000).

Jack B Yeats

Bowler kept the dining room of her mews home for works by painters from an earlier era, and it was there that she hung her 1941 work by Jack B Yeats, Early Morning, Cliffony (Lot 35).

Described by the art critic Thomas McGreevy as “a small gem of pure landscape” when he was reviewing the RHA annual exhibition in 1942, this tiny, vibrant view depicting the countryside near the coastal Sligo town carries an estimate of €25,000-€35,000.

Lot 35: Early Morning, Cliffony by Jack B Yeats
Lot 35: Early Morning, Cliffony by Jack B Yeats

In addition to the Gillian Bowler collection, there are a number of paintings from other vendors on offer, including “blue chip” works by Paul Henry, Roderic O’Conor, Sir John Lavery, Jack Yeats and Sean Keating.

Two oils by Paul Henry come directly from the family of Hector Boyd Hanna, who was an assistant lecturer at Queens University Belfast with the painter’s brother. The family believe that their grandfather loaned the young artist some money and was offered, in return, a small selection of paintings.

An Early View of Pullough Bay, Achill (Lot 31, €20,000-€30,000) was painted when Henry was living on Achill. Gubellaunaun from the Bog (€30,000-€40,000) depicts the smaller island off the Achill coast where Henry made the life-changing decision to stay in Ireland and paint rather than going back to London.

“I made another of my quick decisions,” he wrote in his 1951 autobiography, An Irish Portrait, “which I never regretted and taking my return ticket to London out of my pocket tore it into small pieces and scattered the fragments into the sea which foamed round the rocks of Gubellaunaun”.

Sean Keating

Another view which recalls life in the west of Ireland in very different times is Sean Keating’s A Turf Quay (Lot 26), which carries the highest estimate in the sale at €40,000-€60,000.

Lot 26: A Turf Quay by Sean Keating
Lot 26: A Turf Quay by Sean Keating

Last seen in public when it was bought at an Adam’s auction by the current owner, the painting shows islanders unloading fuel from the boats which had brought it from larger vessels anchored offshore, a job which could only be done when the weather at sea was calm.

The artist chose to stay well back from the busy scene, Dr Eimear O’Connor writes in her catalogue note: “as a result, his viewers are encouraged to observe the contemplative, ritualised aspects of island life, in which each member of the community is absorbed in the work at hand, and all are testament to the spiritual and social value inherent in hard work and in working together.”

Finally, there is a long-lost painting by Nathaniel Hone which – appropriately – has been rediscovered in this, the centenary year of the painter’s death.

Lot 20: Dans les Vignes by Nathaniel Hone
Lot 20: Dans les Vignes by Nathaniel Hone

Dans les Vignes (Lot 20) was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1867 and bought by the Cossé brothers, whose company supplied sugar to champagne producers from their refineries at Nantes.

It was very unusual for French private collectors to purchase work by non-French artists; for one to remain in the same family collection for 150 years is rarer still, and testifies to the quality of Hone’s early work. The painting carries an estimate of €20,000-€30,000.

Adam’s, 26 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Important Irish Art sale, Wednesday (May 31st), 6pm. Viewing May 28th, 2pm to 5pm, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 10am to 5pm. See adams.ie

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