Annual Connemara marquee art to catch the holiday set

Ballyconneely auction of art, furniture, silver and handbags designed to attract buyers on a break

Ireland’s Atlantic coast has been a magnet for generations of painters, from Paul Henry to Donald Teskey, Jack B Yeats to Gerard Dillon. At this time of year, and especially over the August bank holiday weekend, it is also a magnet for tourists – which is why Niall Dolan has scheduled eight days of viewing ahead of his summer sale in Ballyconneely, Co Galway next week.

“People pass through Connemara every day, and they’re here on holiday for a week, or even a month, and they’re not looking at their watches,” he says. “So they can take their time and have a good look.” His marquee is, he adds, “smack in the middle of the village. You cannot miss it.”

Dolan has assembled a world of objects for the sale. Inuit art from northern Canada, rugs from Persia, Japanese netsuke: there's surely something among the 500-plus lots to draw the most discerning buyer to this tiny township on the shores of the Wild Atlantic Way.

A Victorian pine writing desk hails from Stokesay Court in Shropshire – better known to many of us as the family home where Keira Knightley springs from the fountain in the film version of Ian McEwan's Atonement (lot 105, €2,400-€2,800). Two paintings have come from the private collection of the painter Mark O'Neill; Robert Ryan's High as Heaven, Deep As . . . and Soren Melchior Hanson's Evening Sunlight, (lots 115 and 116, €800-€1,200 each).


Three very appealing long-case clocks lead the furniture in the sale.

“They all come with their weights, pendulums, keys and all the rest,” Dolan says. “Like a piano, a clock needs to be tuned when it’s put into place – but moving them is not as difficult as it might appear. They come apart and go back together, and it’s lovely when you go inside a clock and you see the workmanship from 150 or 200 years ago, more or less untouched.”

An early 19th-century inlaid mahogany grandmother clock, made by Richard Midgley, is slim and stylish enough to sit comfortably in the most modestly-sized room (lot 67, €3,000-€4,000). There’s also a Scottish drumhead grandfather clock (lot 68, €1,400-€2,000) and an oak grandfather clock with an enamelled dial (lot 69, €800-€1,200). Lot 93 (€800-€1,200) is a walnut writing table; lot 83 a pair of hall chairs (€500-€600).

The selection of silver includes a fiddle pattern serving spoon, made in Dublin in 1812, possibly by Carden Terry and Jane Williams (lot 40, €300-€500) and a George III wine funnel engraved with a wild boar crest, made by Edward Mayfield in London in 1808 (lot 41, €500-€700). There are gold coins too, including a set from the US dated 1873-1907 (lot 33, €2,000-€2,200), a 1978 South African coin (lot 37, €1,050-€1,150) and a 1989 Canadian coin (lot 38, €950-€1,050).

Toy collectors will be charmed by a wooden model of a coal merchant's horse-drawn wagon by DW Dutton (lot 16, €120-€160) and a Triang model of the ocean liner RMS Orcades in its original box (lot 6, €150-€200). Handbag fans can choose between a Hermes black-and-gilt model with brass logo buttons (lot 302, €2,800-€3,800), a vintage black leather Gucci (lot 303, €600-€800 and a Louis Vuitton with its original receipt (lot 304, €600-€800).


Paintings, needless to say, form the backbone of the sale – especially paintings of our Atlantic coast, which have become something of a speciality for Niall Dolan Art.  There are landscapes and seascapes by Arthur K Maderson, George Gillespie, Maurice MacGonigal, Douglas Alexander, Cecil Maguire, Charles Vincent Lamb and Markey Robinson as well as younger contemporary painters such as Henry Morgan and Carina Scott.

Maurice C Wilks's study of a snowy Rosapenna, Co Donegal (lot 185, €6,500-€7,500) contrasts with Harry Kernoff's summery depiction of Achill from Renvyle (lot 180, €1,200-€1,800).  The most expensive painting in the auction is Seán Keating's mischievous Fear Agus Bean ón Oileán (Lot 193, €25,000-€30,000); bronze sculptures by John Behan (lot 218, Launching the Currachs, €7,500-€9,000 and lot 221, Golden Flight, €1,500-€2,500) – are joined, more unusually, by a brightly-coloured Behan oil painting, Fishermen in the West (lot 215, €3,500-€4,500).

“I think pictures of Connemara mean something more when you’re actually there in the middle of it – and Connemara draws the pictures to us, in a way,” says Dolan.

His advice to buyers is "always" to go with the heart and buy something you love.  So if, on this occasion, he were to go with his heart, what would he pick?  "Patrick Hennessy's Virgo and Letter (lot 201, €10,000-€12,000) is an absolute cracker of a painting," he says, while a study of bogpools by the same painter (lot 202, €6,000-€8,000 ) is "the essence of Connemara". The same might be said of this high-summer sale.

Dolan's Art Auction House, Summer sale in Ballyconneely, Co Galway, Monday August 6th and Tuesday August 7th, 12.30pm.