‘Celtic Phoenix is well and truly in flight,’ say Whyte’s, as Paul Henry’s ‘West of Ireland Bog’ sells for €100,000

Winners and losers in the autumn art auctions

Paul Henry's west of Ireland landscapes dominated the Dublin sales and Francis Bacon hit a rare stumbling block in London. Auctioneers have reason to be satisfied with the recently-ended round of autumn art auctions. In Dublin, over 80 per cent of the art offered by the big three auction houses sold, realising over €2.1 million. Adam's described the result as "brilliant" with 85.5 per cent of the 210 lots sold. Their top price was achieved for A Connemara Cottage by Paul Henry which made €87,000 – comfortably above the top estimate (€60,000-€80,000).

Whyte's said "the Celtic Phoenix is well and truly in flight" after 79 per cent of lots sold for a combined €950,000. The top lot was also a Paul Henry, West of Ireland Bog' that made €100,000 – hitting the top estimate (€80,000-€100,000) [see pic]. At de Veres, where 80 per cent of lots sold for a more modest total of €225,000, the top lot was, surprisingly, Scarecrow by John Shinnors that made €14,500 – well above estimate (€6,000-€9,000).

Overall, the top three artists in terms of prices were Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats and Gerard Dillon [see table of top 10 Dublin prices for paintings below] – although Dillon's Wet Day, Ireland, which was the top lot at de Veres', with an estimate of €30,000-€35,000, failed to sell. Among other casualties were Nude Bathing by Roderic O'Conor (€15,000-€20,000) at Whyte's and All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go by Daniel O'Neill (€22,000-€30,000) at Adam's.

In London, the annual Irish Art sale at Sotheby's achieved a less stellar sold rate of 63 per cent and realised a total of £1.9 million (a figure that, unlike the Dublin results, includes the buyer's premium). The top Lot was Sir John Lavery's The Summit of the Jungfrau – a Swiss Alpine scene -that made £212,500 (€237k) – within the estimate (£150,000-£250,000). The main losers were Roderic O'Conor (yet again) whose Nude Seated on a Chaise Longue was estimated at (£70,000-£100,000); and, Gerard Dillon (he's really had a mixed season) whose The Widow Woman was estimated at £20,000-£30,000.


Jack B Yeats also featured in Sotheby's Irish sale where his top lot was Railway Refreshment Room which made £125,000 (£80,000-£120,000). In the separate auction at Sotheby's of the Yeats Family Collection, the top art lot was The Sunset Belongs to You by Jack B Yeats that made £212,500 – above the top estimate (£100,000-£150,000). But the artist also made a rare appearance among the losers when The Runaway Horse with an estimate of £150,000-£250,000 failed to sell.

There was Irish interest too in the auction at Christie's in London of paintings by Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon that normally attract multi-million-pound bids and prices. Two paintings from his famous Pope series went under the hammer on October 6th. Study of Red Pope 1962. Second version 1971 [see pic] had a top estimate of a staggering £80 million (€89m) – the highest ever for a painting at auction in Europe – but failed to sell. The Bloomberg newswire service reported afterwards that the auction ended "with gasps rather than applause". But it would be unwise to consign Bacon to the loser camp. After all, one of his paintings (albeit a three-panel triptych), Three Studies of Lucian Freud, sold for $142.4 million at Christie's, New York in 2013 and his Study from Innocent X, (the original version of the Red Pope') made $52.6 million at Sotheby's in 2007. So, it's likely that Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 will return to the market some day.

Meanwhile, it was possible to buy a Francis Bacon last week for just under the equivalent of €13 million. In the same auction at Christie's, a 1955 painting titled Head with Raised Arm [see pic] sold for £11.5 million (€13m) – estimate £7 million-£10 million. The painting was exhibited in 1962 in Turin where it was acquired by the vendor and had remained hidden from public view ever since. The work's location was listed as "unknown" in the most recent version of Bacon's "catalogue raisonné" (the list of all the artist's paintings) published last year by Martin Harrison. The small oil-on-canvas, measuring 24 by 20 inches, is also a "papal portrait" but, unlike Red Pope, was not inspired by Velaquez's' Innocent X. Instead, the image is based on a photo of Pope Pius XII (head of the Catholic Church from 1939 until his death in 1958) that Bacon kept on his studio wall.

Overall top 10 prices for paintings in the Dublin autumn 2017 art auctions

Please note the tie for 10th place

1. West of Ireland Bog by Paul Henry €100,000 (€80,000-€100,000) at Whyte's.

2. Against the Stream by Jack B Yeats €92,000 (€60,000-€80,000) at Whyte's

3. A Connemara Cottage by Paul Henry €87,000 (€60,000-€80,000) at Adam's

4. Cottage Interior by Gerard Dillon €46,000 (€25,000-€35,000) at Adam's

5. The Artist in the Country by Gerard Dillon €39,000 (€15,000-€20,000) at Adam's

6. Woods in June by Colin Middleton €37,000 (€15,000-€20,000) at Adam's

7. Laganside at Dusk by Basil Blackshaw €35,000 (€40,000- €60,000) at Adam's

8. A Young Girl in a Village by Walter Frederick Osborne €34,500 ( €20,000- €30,000) at Adam's

9. The Launch by William Conor €33,000 (€20,000-€30,000) at Adam's

10. On the Hill of Howth (drawing) by Sir William Orpen €30,000 (€30,000-€50,000) at Whyte's

10. Landscape with a Tree by Colin Middleton €30,000 (€15,000-€20,000) at Adam's