Irish art sales in London: The big prices and the non-sellers

Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace  by Irish artist William Orpen sold for £962,500 (€1.1 million) at Sotheby’s.  It was bought by a collector in the United States

Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace by Irish artist William Orpen sold for £962,500 (€1.1 million) at Sotheby’s. It was bought by a collector in the United States


All three major international auction houses in London featured Irish art in this week’s sales. At Sotheby’s, a major portrait by Irish artist Sir William Orpen sold for £962,500 (€1.1 million) on Tuesday when Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace was bought by an private bidder in the United States. The price, which was at the low end of the estimate (£800,000-£1.2 million), is the second-highest paid for a painting by Orpen who was born in Stillorgan, Co Dublin in 1878. In 2001, Sotheby’s sold his Portrait Of Gardenia St George With Riding Crop for £1.9 million (€2.24 million) also to an American collector.

Only half the Irish paintings at Sotheby’s found buyers. A selection of sketches by Orpen failed to sell except for one: a pen-and-ink drawing of an unhappy artist at his easel painting a landscape titled Portrait of a Young Man Trying The Impossible in Dublin: Dublin At Sunset which sold for £10,000.

At Bonhams on Wednesday, the top two Irish lots were by Paul Henry with his The Curragh selling for £158,500 (£100,000-£150,000) and Landscape With Fishing Boat, £116,500 (£100,000-£ 150,000).

Quinlan’s art
At Christie’s there was an unexpectedly high price for Sir John Lavery’s Tennis, Hotel Beau Site, Cannes which made £890,500, way above the estimate (£300,000-£500,000) but Roderic O’Conor’s still life, Flowers, Bottles And Two Jugs,estimated at £250,000-£350,000, failed to sell.

Four paintings previously owned by financier Derek Quinlan, which failed to sell in a previous auction in 2011, were finally sold after asking prices were slashed by about 50 per cent. The top lot was Red Rocks, Brittany by Roderic O’Conor which made £128,500, less than half its estimated value in 2011.

Tinker Breaks Whitethorn by Louis le Brocquy, sold for just £32,500, a spectacular drop in value for this artist since the watercolour was acquired seven years ago reputedly for £150,000

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