Dozen lots by Markey Robinson at De Veres’ auction

The prolific painter is the most popular artist at auction in Ireland and he inspires either love or hate

Markey Robinson is one of the best-known names in Irish art yet he's shrouded in mystery. He was born David Marcus Robinson in Belfast in 1918 and died there, aged 80, in 1999. The son of a house painter, he was, at various times, a boxer and a merchant seaman. He trained as an artist in the Belfast College of Art and later spent much of his time in Dublin.

According to John Burns, author of the 1988 survey of the Irish art market Sold!, Markey Robinson was "an eccentric figure often mistaken for a tramp" who sometimes slept in hostels and "rummaged through skips and rubbish tips looking for cardboard and paper" on which to paint.

Markey, as he is referred to in art market shorthand, was amazingly prolific and produced a vast number of paintings estimated to be in excess of 10,000. Most depict clichéd images of clowns, white-washed gable ends, fishing boats and west-of-Ireland women wearing shawls – derogatorily known in the art market as “Shawlies”.

His paintings are very popular and turn up at almost every Irish art auction. According to Rory Guthrie at de Veres Fine Art auctioneers in Kildare Street: "Generally speaking, people either love or hate Markey Robinson but hundreds are sold every year, more than any other artist."


De Vere's auction in Bewley's Hotel, Ballsbridge, on Tuesday evening (December 2nd) includes 12 lots by Markey Robinson including Unloading the Catch estimated at €14,000-€18,000. The auctioneers describe it as "Markey's masterpiece" – on the market for the first time and, measuring 48 by 65.5 inches, is "certainly the largest of his works to come on the market".

In 2007 , de Veres sold The Harbour at Ardglass for €54,000, unsigned and half the size of the present work, "which is the top price paid at auction for a Markey".

Among other highlights in de Veres is Daydreamer by Martin Gale (€8,000-€12,000) and a diptych (two-panel painting) by Brian Bourke titled East Manhattan (€10,000-€15,000), which was "painted from the roof of the Irish Consulate in New York" and shows the Manhattan skyline with the Chrysler Building in the distance.

The most expensive painting in the sale is Mayo Road by Donald Teskey (€20,000-€30,000). The catalogue also includes 20 lots of 20th-century design furniture including a set of seven Brno chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe and made by Knoll International (€2,000-€3,000).

De Veres’ Irish Art and Design Auction, Thomas Prior Hall, Bewley’s Hotel Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on December 2nd at 6pm. Viewing begins tomorrow, Sunday. Further details and catalogue at