Henry, Ballagh and O’Donoghue lead impressive list

Morgan O’Driscoll sale features big names in Irish art as well as newcomers

After last year’s records and the recent sale of Lobster Fishermen off Achill, which sold through Whyte’s for €200,000, demand for Paul Henry’s work appears to be on the rise. The highlight of Morgan O’Driscoll’s upcoming online Irish and International Art auction is a quintessential work by the most influential landscape painter of 20th-century Ireland.

An Irish Bog, silhouetted against a range of blue mountains and large turf stacks in the foreground, featured on the cover of Seán Ó Faoláin’s book An Irish Journey. During the summer of 1939 Ó Faoláin and Henry toured Ireland together, with the writer gathering information for his book while Henry sketched and painted.

At the time, both writer and artist were shunned figures in Ireland. Ó Faoláin's novel Bird Alone had been banned for indecency, while disapproval of Henry stemmed from the fact that he had left his wife Grace only to forge a relationship with artist Mabel Young. The publication of An Irish Journey was to mark the beginning of the end of Henry's career, as not long afterwards his eyesight began to fail and he was forced to stop painting in 1945, and did not regain his vision prior to his death in 1958. This work last sold through Whyte's in 2007 for €120,000 and is now listed at €120,000-€180,000.

Also featured are unusual works outside the oeuvre of their makers. Madonna of the West by Maurice Canning Wilks is a departure from his best-known depictions of landscapes – and shows that he was equally proficient as a portrait artist (lot 43, €8,000-€12,000). Landscape, Kerry, a work by the enigmatic artist Daniel O'Neill, is rare in the sense that although his thundery colours are here, this painting has no shape of human form at all (€15,000-€25,000).

Contemporary works include Robert Ballagh’s Inside No.3 After Modernisation, which depicts the artist himself inside his home and studio in Broadstone, Dublin which “juxtaposes aspects of a compendium of styles” according to catalogue notes (lot 68, €30,000-€50,000).

Conor Walton's portrait of Elon Musk, entitled Salvator Tuesday, is a powerful satire on Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi. Here the tech giant is featured in the red glow of Mars – after which Tuesday takes its name – from the Roman god and harbinger of war and destruction. Walton has sarcastically placed Musk as a techno saviour of the world (lot 91, €6,000-€8,000).

Hughie O'Donoghue's Prodigal Son, a monumental oil on linen, which has been exhibited at the Centre Cultural in Paris, the Kunstmuseum in The Hague and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, depicts a war-torn German soldier which O'Donoghue painted after visiting the Imperial War Museum in London. It is said to recover lost and forgotten histories "of all these people caught up in the currents of history – diaspora, warfare, disasters – beyond the influence of ordinary individuals", and addresses the nature of life and limitations within. It is a most remarkable work and a pertinent reminder of the world's current upheaval (€30,000-€50,000).