High hopes for a great Scott sale at DeVere’s
Works by Mainie Jellett and John Doherty could prove to be solid investments
Mainie Jellett’s Flower Forms
Every time a William Scott painting comes under the hammer these days the question is: when the hammer falls, will another record be shattered?
Scott’s Still Life 1973 sold for €140,000 at DeVere’s last March, making it the most expensive painting to be sold in Ireland in 2017– until Scott’s Still Life with Eight Forms went for €195,000, also at DeVere’s, in May. Barely a week later another Scott canvas, Blue Still Life, made €450,000 at Whyte’s.
All eyes then will be on Scott’s Painting 1959 (Lot 29, €250,000-€350,000) when it comes up for auction at DeVere’s sale of Irish art on Tuesday.
“It’s a major, major piece,” says Rory Guthrie of DeVere’s. “And prices for his work have gone up a lot since it was last sold at Sotheby’s 13 years ago – so we’re hopeful.”
There are high hopes too for Mainie Jellett’s Cubist still life Flower Forms (Lot 30, €30,000-€50,000). A catalogue note by France Ruane describes the painting as “a glorious late work” in which Jellett set out to portray, not the visible outer forms of the flowers, but their inner rhythms. Jellett takes the circular form of the flower, repeating and overlaying it in a series of dynamic variations around a central axis. “Looking at Flower Forms one can’t help but be caught up in its joyous spirit,” Ruane concludes.
Colin Middleton’s Dali-esque Paysage des Reves Mauvais (Lot 31, €50,000-€70,000) is also full of energy and movement. Its spirit, however, might be said to be of a rather more sinister nature. The painting, which dates from 1940, recreates the landscape of a nightmare. A contorted, semi-clothed figure is poised – or trapped – between three tall sticks and a tiny ladder, her legs at an impossible angle, her feet clad in what might be lengths of bandages while in the background, a dressing-table with a broken mirror sits in a vast desert landscape.
John Doherty’s photo-realist work John & Denis Mangan’s Shop, Killorglin, Co Kerry (Lot 10, €30,000-€50,000) returns the viewer to the more familiar – if rapidly vanishing – streetscape of the small Irish town. “It’s a very, very good Doherty, and John actually rang to say it’s one of his favourites,” Guthrie says.
In this painting, Doherty has gone to extraordinary lengths to recreate the exterior of the building as well as the street in front of it, where a discarded bag of Tayto crisps is painted in loving detail, as is a casually-parked red motorbike. At some stage the interior of Mangan’s shop made its way to Kiely’s pub in Donnybrook where it has, for many years, formed part of the decor of the back bar. The fact that Kiely’s is itself up for sale adds a further layer of poignancy to Doherty’s meticulous observation of the changes wrought by time on the surface of things.
The wide range of responses which the landscapes of Ireland elicit from Irish artists can be seen in this sale from Paul Henry’s A Road in Connemara (Lot 21, €40,000-€60,000), with its curved road, cottage, scrubland and mountains piled with billowing clouds, to John Shinnors’ strongly-patterned abstract diptych Scottish Kites – Banna Strand (Lot 8, €10,000-€15,000), which is offered along with the sketch made by the artist on the beach in Co Kerry.
Camille Souter’s Calary Bog (Lot 28, €15,000-€20,000), glowing in shades of gold, was painted after her 1962 move to a farm in Co Wicklow. William Crozier’s Roaring Water Bay (Lot 33, €8,000-€12,000) finds a riot of colour and shape at the edge of west Cork.
Norah McGuinness records a windy walk for worshippers in Donegal, Sunday (Lot 13, €8,000-€12,000). Patrick Collins’s Swallows Under The Roof (Lot 27, €3,000-€5,000) makes a shining silver jewel out of a nest on a barn wall, while Nano Reid finds beauty in a Drooping Flower (Lot 78, €6,000-€9,000).
An old railway building near Nimes in the south of France is the subject of Micheal Farrell’s affectionate Railway Station, Lezan (Lot 11, €8,000-€12,000). According to the artist’s wife, the building had been converted into a wine cellar and was one of the places where he liked to buy his wine.
There’s another French connection – and another affectionate portrait – in Roderic O’Connor’s La Blouse Verte (Lot 24, €15,000-€20,000). The woman, who is wearing a striking green top reminiscent of a painter’s smock, is thought to be Renee Honta, who married O’Connor in 1933.
Sculpture is a major element in this sale, which features three figures by Rowan Gillespie. Click (Lot 50, €20,000-€30,000) was inspired by a dancer weaving her way around the stage at Dún Laoghaire’s Festival of World Cultures in 2003; In Awe (Lot 51, €20,000-€30,000) is part of a series which also includes Looking at the Moon and Looking at the Sea; and Life 2002 (Lot 52, €10,000-€15,000) has a small figure balanced, in apparent defiance of gravity, on a branch.
There are also two characteristically playful pieces by Patrick O’Reilly. Pitch Fork (Lot 68, €4,000-€6,000) is made from galvanised steel and larch and, at a whopping 1,250cm long, celebrates the inherent aesthetic beauty of this everyday object in a big way. And the bronze bear Marching On (Lot 53, €25,000-€30,000, though not as large as his outsized relative – currently scampering across the golf course at Adare Manor and, at four metres tall, the largest figurative bronze ever made in Ireland – is still, at 140cm high, a bear to be reckoned with.