Brian Friel's art collection raises €162,300 for homeless

Works of art donated by the late playwright’s wife Anna sold well over estimate

Artworks from the collection of the late playwright Brian Friel have raised €162,300 for the homeless charity the Peter McVerry Trust. A total of 22 of the 23 pieces from the Friel Collection were sold at Adam's sale of important Irish art on St Stephen's Green in Dublin.

When it was announced in July that Anne Friel had donated the paintings, it was anticipated that the sale would raise as much as €100,000 for the charity, whose principal aims are to reduce homelessness and the harm caused by drug misuse and social disadvantage. In the event the figure proved to be significantly higher - which is good news not just for those engaged in the fight against homelessness but also for Ireland's art market, which has struggled to recover its equilibrium since the recession.

Among the painting of the Friel Collection Norah McGuinness's Evening Flight, which depicts waterbirds and gulls against a background of the Ringsend chimneys, made €22,000. Basil Blackshaw's Lurcher, a study of a man walking his dog on a beach against a fiery sunset, made €17,000. A painting of a fighting cock by Blackshaw - bought by Anne Friel as a gift for her husband, because she thought the bird "had the look of a survivor about it" - made €15,000. The only piece not to sell was a sculpture by Conor Fallon, Two Trout, which had a pre-sale guide price of €5,000-€7,000.

In the sale as a whole, paintings by Louis le Brocquy, Paul Henry and Aloysius O'Kelly made prices at, and in many cases well above, their lowest estimates. A charcoal drawing by Jack B Yeats, The Sandwich Board Man - not much bigger in size than an iPad - sold for €30,000.


The late Brian Friel, however, would have been pleased to note that two of the biggest winners were artists from Northern Ireland.

FE McWilliam's Woman of Belfast No 7, made after the bombing of the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast in March 1972, sold for €28,000, and the hammer came down at €46,000 - well above its estimate of €30,000-€40,000 - on Gerard Dillon's Connemara scene, Pigeon in the Bay.

Meanwhile, Mary Swanzy’s The Lute Player made €11,000, which would have pleased the artist. She had strong views about what she saw as the restricted role of women in the art world particularly when it came to their depictions of the female form. According to the catalogue notes for The Lute Player, Swanzy once remarked that “If I had been born a Henry instead of a Mary, my life would have been very different”.

Arminta Wallace

Arminta Wallace

Arminta Wallace is a former Irish Times journalist