'Unrecorded' Paul Henry works to be sold
TWO “UNRECORDED” paintings by Irish artist Paul Henry have been discovered in the United States and will be sold at auction in London next month. International fine art auctioneers Bonhams said the oil paintings – depicting Achill Island off Co Mayo – had apparently been given as a gift to a US lawyer by the newly established government of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Paul Henry (1877-1958) was one of the best-known Irish artists of the 20th century. Bonhams said the “beautiful landscapes” – valued jointly at more than £100,000 (€124,290) – were “believed to have been presented to Clemens J France by the people of Ireland in gratitude for his work on the constitution of the Irish Free State”.
Clemens J France was a prominent New York lawyer who, after serving with the army in the first World War, was appointed to the US Committee of Enquiry on Conditions in Ireland. He seems to have come to the attention of Irish visitors to America – including Eamon de Valera – who visited the country to garner support for Irish independence.
In 1922 he was asked to serve on the committee established by Michael Collins to draft the constitution of the Irish Free State. It is understood that the paintings were acquired and presented to him as a gesture of gratitude for his work.
Dr France later worked as a salesman and manager in the advertising department of the New York Times. He was subsequently appointed director of social welfare for Rhode Island but was unsuccessful in a bid to be elected governor of that state. He died, aged 82, in 1959.
A spokeswoman for Bonhams said the unnamed vendor was “a lady in Maryland, USA” who told the auctioneer that “Clemens France was a very good friend of her parents and he gifted the pictures to them”. The paintings will go on view in Dublin for three days from October 23rd at Bonhams’ gallery on Molesworth Street before the London sale.