How to start an Irish art collction for under €100

Whyte’s summer sale of art has many small works by big-name artists

Sunlight streaming into a painter's studio; sketches pinned jauntily to the wall; a jar of brushes at the ready. Liam Treacy's Still Life by the Window (lot 209, €600-€800) is the cover image on the catalogue for Whyte's forthcoming summer sale of affordable art – a bright, uplifting work which would surely convince even the most curmudgeonly collector of fine art that the time has come to splash out on something new.

It’s certainly a great opportunity to buy an artwork for the home – even an artwork by one of the biggest names on the Irish art market – without breaking the bank. Guide prices start at less than €100, and nothing in the sale has an estimate higher than €2,000.

“There are some rare early works by Charles Harper, there’s a Seán McSweeney, there are some Le Brocquy drawings and some works by Felim Egan,” says Adelle Hughes, head of art at Whyte’s. “Brian Bourke is another artist who is represented here, and whose work is very expensive to acquire in a gallery.”

For the first time, Whyte’s will host the online sale through its own website – so bidders will also be spared the usual online bidding fee, which can add an extra 3 per cent to 5 per cent on top of hammer price and commission.


A forceful composition in strong shades of green and blue with a dramatic light haunting the horizon, the McSweeney oil-on-board painting Land and Sea (lot 6) is priced at €800-€1,200.

Three Louis le Brocquy lithographs from the 1969 Táin series, Macha Pleading (lot 1), Medb Relieving Herself (lot 2) and Swordsman (lot 3), carry guide prices of €1,500-€2,000 each.  Felim Egan's blue etching Lagoon A (lot 7) is priced at €200-€300 and Charles Harper's male nude studies (lots 21 and 22) at €100-€150). An oil painting by Brian Bourke, Untitled (Portrait) (lot 26) is €250-€350; an etching by the same artist, Self and Don Quixote, (lot 17) is estimated at €80-€120.

Those who hanker after a watercolour by Andrew Nichol will be impressed to find his romantic Ross Castle with Female Figure in Foreground, Killarney (lot 26) on offer for €400-€600. Rowland Hill's blustery study A Strong Breeze, Irish Sea is a little pricier at €600-€800, and Desmond Carrick's serene study of cattle grazing on a beach on Inisbofin is €1,000-€1,500. Maintaining the summer theme but travelling further afield, Roger Coryndon Shackleton's 1962 Derelict Turkish House (lot 125, €300–€500) recreates the crumbling magnificence of a wooden Ottoman building, its cantilevered overhang managing to defy gravity despite years of neglect and decay.

Harry Kernoff

Following the successful prices achieved by the Harry Kernoff paintings from the Segal family collection at Whyte’s May sale of Irish art, there are a number of works by Kernoff, including a collection of rare unframed black-and-white woodcuts (lot 75, €1,200-€1,500) and two small-scale abstract oils in gem-like colours (lot 77, €800-€1,000).

A John Luke woodcut from the McClelland collection portrays the Farmhouse, Ballyaghaghan (lot 103, €600–€800, also includes a printer's copy, both signed) in Luke's inimitable fashion – but, unusually, in colour, the undulating farmland pulsing in strips of green and gold.  Also from the McClelland collection are a number of drawings by Basil Blackshaw – one of which, Figure and Horse (lot 160A) was offered at auction before, priced at upwards of €1,000 but is now priced to sell at €500–€700.

If the Blackshaw captures the stance of both horse and rider with a few well–chosen flourishes of a pencil, the coat of the animal in Peter Curling's gouache Horse and Rider (lot 157, €600–€800) glows a healthy bronze. Pauline Bewick's Fossett's Horse Rides, 2001 (lot 104A, €800-€1,000) recreates the colour and drama of the circus ring.

“It’s very similar to the Mainie Jellett circus scene which the National Gallery of Ireland is using to promote its Circus 250: Art of the Show exhibition, with horses running in a circle around the circus tent,” says Hughes.

The sale contains more than a few works with a retro 1970s flavour – one such being Evin Nolan's 1972 work Comhchosach Scoilte (lot 44, €400–€500). "It's a very large work with a triangular shape," Hughes says. "For somebody with a modern apartment and an interest in retro Scandinavian furniture, that's good value for an original artwork of the period."

There are also a number of modestly-sized sculptures, perfect for putting on the coffee table or the mantelpiece without causing wholesale domestic collapse – Edmund Delaney's Untitled, circa 1968 (lot 64, €400–€600), Vincent Browne's The Warrior (lot 65, €800–€1,000) and two pieces by Oisín Kelly, the bronze Ceili Dancers and a ceramic Bird, (lots 66 and 67, €300-€500 and €200-€300).

Meanwhile, from the truly affordable end of the spectrum comes a collection of lithographs from the “School Prints Series”, to be sold in two lots (lots 105 and 106, €600–€800 and €100–€200 respectively). “They’re from the 1940s, when Britain was publishing lithographs by very well-known artists, all published to the same size and produced to be framed up and to hang in the schools across the UK to encourage an interest in art,” says Hughes.

“They’ve been kept very carefully, so the condition is beautiful. They’d be gorgeous in a playroom, or a child’s bedroom, or for gifts for grandchildren.  Obviously some within the lot are more desirable than others; the first lot, 105, contains 11 prints and there are five in lot 106. When you divide it out that’s cheaper than buying a print from Ikea.”

For additional details see

Arminta Wallace

Arminta Wallace

Arminta Wallace is a former Irish Times journalist