Basil Blackshaw’s angels appear in De Vere’s Irish Art Auction

Works by Nathaniel Hone and Daniel O’Neill also among selection from 20th century

De Vere’s Irish Art Auction, which is currently open for bidding online and ends Tuesday March 29th, has 150 lots of Irish art dating from the 20th century.

With estimates from €100, the auction includes watercolours by Desmond Carrick and Sean Fingleton, and there are two sketches by Nathaniel Hone (1831-1917) priced at €200-€400. A member of an established artistic family, Hone was the first native artist to introduce the concept of 19th-century French naturalism to Irish painting. Indeed, along with John Butler Yeats, Hone's exhibition in 1901 was said to be the turning point that convinced Sir Hugh Lane that Dublin ought to have a dedicated gallery to modern art. After his death in 1917, his widow bequeathed the contents of the artist's studio to the National Gallery of Ireland, whicho describe Hone as "one of the most important figures in the history of Irish art in the 19th century".

Two works by Belfast painter Daniel O'Neill feature: Strolling (€10,000-€15,000) and the almost surreal Breakwater, Newcastle, depicting the shore landscape of his native Northern Ireland (€6,000-€9,000). Another foremost Northern Ireland painter of a generation that followed O'Neill is Basil Blackshaw, and the sale has four of his works on offer. With an estimate of €8,000-€12,000, Canal Bridge, a large oil on canvas measuring 114cm x 139cm, depicts an image that is said (according to catalogue notes) to have been carried in the artist's mind for decades before it saw the light of day. It was first exhibited at the Narrow Water Gallery on Carlingford Lough in 1989.

The three remaining paintings, listed with estimates of €3,000-€5,000 each, are all acrylic on canvas dating from 1989 and depict angels, which may have had a very personal significance to Blackshaw. As broadcaster and art critic Eamon Mallie wrote: "Basil regularly painted small images of angels for his long-suffering partner Helen to mark her birthday and as a gift at Christmas. I suspect Blackshaw, a recovering alcoholic, saw Helen as an angel having literally picked him up from the floor many times when he was 'on the drink'."


Of interest to fans of Tony O’Malley, the self-taught Kilkenny-born artist, whose works are represented in significant Irish public and private collections, as well as important international collections of Irish art, will be Homage to John McCormack (€6,000-€9,000). As O’Malley was also an amateur musician, he often found “music” in sounds of nature. Here, the catalogue suggests he has taken a further step “by focusing on his experience of listening to this famous Irish tenor sing” and that his paintings “encapsulate his sensory experience of a place or event– seeing plus feeling”.

Known for his charm, perception and wit, artist Michael Farrell had been deeply troubled by the repression of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. His work moved from cool minimalism to a "hip Celtic abstraction", as suggested in the catalogue, but by 1975 he began introducing newspaper headlines and spatters of blood-red paint to highlight the troubles in Northern Ireland. A Shorter History of Ireland is described as "visually dramatic with stunning impact and encapsulates Farrell's disillusionment" (€8,000-€12,000).