LeBrocquy, Yeats and an Irish river god in spring auction

Whyte’s hoping art market recovery will continue in 2017

 

The first of the big Dublin art auctions of 2017 takes place on Monday evening at the RDS, where Whyte’s is holding an Irish and International Art Auction. The auction house has already said that 2016 was its best year since the economic crash of 2008, so there will be interest among collectors and investors to see if that upward growth – in demand and prices – continues.

There’s no ‘blockbuster’ in the sale and nothing in the €100,000-plus range, but instead what auctioneer Ian Whyte described as great variety and good value. Viewing of the 187 lots, painting and sculpture,- begins this morning at the RDS in Ballsbridge, via the Anglesea Road entrance.

It may be a new year but in the Irish art market the same old reliable names keep cropping up and, yet again, the top lot is a Paul Henry landscape, Lot 20, Lough Altan, County Donegal, estimated at €60,000-€80,000, which has been in a private family collection since it was purchased in the 1930s. The image is not unique; the artist painted a few similar images of this location, also known as the Lake of the Hillock, near the village of Gortahork.

Jack B Yeats is also, inevitably, included and Lot 32 is a 1914 oil-on-panel by him entitled Fresh Horses that once, in the 1960s, belonged to the actor Peter O’Toole. But he sold it on and it last changed hands five years ago at de Veres in Dublin, where it sold for €40,000. It is now back on the market with an estimate of €40,000-€60,000.

A selection of more contemporary art is led by four works by Louis le Brocquy, who died in 2012 and whose prices took a hammering in the past few years. Whyte’s said Lot 65 Life Study (Self) is an oil-on-canvas with a sequence of four separate images of the artist’s head that was bought from the Dawson Gallery in Dublin in 1970 by an unnamed friend of the artist and has been consigned to the auction from her estate. The estimate is €30,000-€50,000. Whyte’s said the painting may be a discovery of “immense importance” that has never been exhibited or illustrated in any medium until now.

Among the sculpture, Lot 109 is a bronze Mask of the Barrow – 35in high and 16in wide – by the sculptor Mark Breslin (€5,000-€7,000). This piece is No 1 from an edition of three and is a larger-than-life-size adaptation of one of the famous keystone depictions of Irish river-gods that adorn the south face of Dublin’s Custom House.

The Barrow keystone is one of 14 emblematic renditions of the larger rivers of Ireland, made by sculptor Edward Smyth in the 18th century, which were used to decorate the porticos of the Gandon-designed building. The River Barrow rises in the Slieve Bloom mountains in Co Laois and flows into the sea at Waterford estuary.

The mask is intended to embody the characteristics of the Barrow and, according to a catalogue note: “Its visage presents an ill-humoured and almost sullen face suggestive of a slow-flowing river. The mouth is drawn down at the corners and exudes many small fish and water weeds which mingle with the beard. Above its broad and blunt nose, the top of the head is adorned by the fell of a sheep, whose fore-legs hang down in front of two inverted vases, typical classical symbols of springs of water.”

There are plenty of more affordable lots in the auction including paintings by Markey Robinson, Graham Knuttel, Ivan Sutton, Liam O’Neill, Tony O’Malley, Kenneth Webb and Patrick Scott, and an attractive seasonal image, Lot 167, Spring Flowers (oil-on-copper panel) by the English-born, Dublin-based artist Stuart Morle (€1,000-€1,500).

Most collectors and even first-time buyers prefer to buy an original work of art and to own something unique. But for anyone interested in prints, Whyte’s said the auction includes limited edition signed prints by international artists including Pablo Picasso (from €2,000) and Salvador Dalí (from €400) and commented that “if Aldi or Lidl ever start selling art, perhaps this might be one of their offers”. Now there’s an interesting thought.

Whyte’s Irish and International Art Auction at the RDS (Anglesea Road entrance), Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on Monday, February 27th at 6pm. Viewing today, tomorrow and Monday, 10am-6pm.

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