Ireland’s collector couple: 194 diverse artworks to go on sale

Jackie Stanley and her late husband, NCAD’s Campbell Bruce, were giants on art scene

At the age of 93, artist Jackie Stanley is still painting. Since her husband Campbell Bruce died in 2014, she also continues to collect work – currently with a passion for prints. The couple, both prolific collectors, were two of the most familiar faces on the contemporary art scene in Ireland for almost half a century.

Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green will hold an online timed sale of 194 artworks from their collection, closing Tuesday, February 1st, with viewing at the saleroom the weekend commencing Friday, January 28th.

Born in 1927, Campbell Bruce left his home on the island of St Helena at the age of nine and arrived in England to be educated. Due to the Blitz, he had to be evacuated from London and was never to see his father again.

After training at the Croydon School of Art and the Royal College of Art, he exhibited in the UK while having various posts in teaching. He then married artist Jackie Stanley, who had exhibited and painted in Ireland since the late 1960s.


The couple arrived in Ireland from London in 1974, where Campbell took up the role of professor of fine art at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), a tenure he held for more than two decades.

Settling in Sandymount, Jackie admitted in an interview with the Irish Examiner in 2015, that a long-term stay was not originally on the cards, as the couple had planned a stay for just five years.

At that time though, Margaret Thatcher, as minster for education was tightening up on anything to do with the arts, describing Francis Bacon as "that man who paints those dreadful pictures". So England's loss was Ireland's gain, as Campbell was described by Prof Declan McGonagle, then director of NCAD, as having "really energised the department (of fine art) and established a new identity for the college".

‘Renaissance in NCAD’

Also described in one of many obituaries as bringing about "a renaissance in the NCAD which changed Irish art", several generations of Irish artists benefited from his ability to pull talents such as Patrick Scott, Nigel Rolfe and Sean Scully (a former student of Campbell) as teachers.

Robert Ballagh, a close friend for 40 years, told The Irish Times in 2015 that Campbell "was the best type of art educator, in that he never sought to project himself onto his students but to liberate them".

Renowned for their support of young artists in Ireland, the couple were often seen at multiple art openings over the course of an evening throughout their 60-year marriage, and in addition to teaching and curating, Campbell, as well as Jackie, was an accomplished painter, depicting coastal and landscape scenes from west Cork.

In later years, he exhibited at the Solomon Gallery and Gormley's Fine Art as well as the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), to which he was elected in 2005.

Along with art historian and first head of collections at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) Catherine Marshall, he curated a major exhibition entitled Siar 50 – Fifty Years of Irish Art, which was held at the museum in Kilmainham, and drew from the extensive collections of the Irish Contemporary Arts Society (ICAS).

Jackie, along with Barbara Dunne, Andy Folan, Jan de Fouw and Sara Horgan, established the Black Church Print Studio, which is today the working space for some of Ireland's leading contemporary printmakers. With Betty Ballagh, she also initiated the National Portrait Awards, which ran for a decade. She is also a long standing and dedicated member of the Dublin Arts Club.

Their collection was built thanks to the many friendships the couple had with diverse artists here in Ireland and in the UK. With a total of 194 pieces in the sale, there are many familiar names, including the work of Mick O'Dea, Sean McSweeney, Robert Ballagh, Donald Teskey, Mick Mulcahy, Charlie Whisker and William Crozier.

Less familiar names

Also featured are many less familiar names, who were either students of Campbell's or talent the couple came across and wanted to support. The collection is a great insight to the couple's passion for art, without concern for return on investment: "They simply took great pleasure in supporting the arts and relished in their role as collectors," according to Nicholas Gore Grimes, who curated the sale, which has estimates ranging from €50 to €4,000.

Daughter Nichola says her parents “were described as being ‘everywhere’, often attending two or three private (art) views in one night”. In a moving salutation at the humanist funeral service held in Glasnevin for her father in 2014, she described him as man who could make things grow, be they “vegetables, colours, lights or daughters”.

Indeed, his and Jackie’s presence on the Irish art scene for 50 years will be remembered for their tremendous assistance and support to Irish artists, critics and galleries alike.