Lake Geneva by Lavery or the Dodder by Yeats?

Irish artists take to the water in Whyte’s art auction

A view of Lake Geneva entitled Evening, Montreux by Sir John Lavery is the top lot in Whyte's art sale in the RDS on Monday evening, November 27th. The estimate is €80,000-€100,000.

Belfast-born Lavery, who died in 1941, spent most of his life in London, was a noted portrait painter of high-society figures and socialised with the rich and famous. He travelled widely, and many of his best-known paintings are of his extended trips to Switzerland, the south of France and Morocco.

In 1923, he and his wife Lady Lavery went to the Swiss Alps, and stayed at the luxury Palace Hotel in Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva (Lac Léman as it is known in French). As he always did on holidays, Lavery brought his painting kit and made landscapes of the town and its environs. This painting shows the lake with the twinkling lights of the town off to the left.

Lavery enjoyed Switzerland, and produced a series of paintings of the landscapes which are very sought after by collectors. Among examples that have sold in recent years are the curiously-titled Japanese Switzerland (a painting of his wife and step-daughter in Alps that had been on loan to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin for 20 years) that made £509,000 in 2016, and The Summit of the Jungfrau that made £212,500 in September this year – both at Sotheby's, London.


Whyte's said Lot 20, Evening, Montreux, an oil-on-canvas measuring 20in by 24in, had been consigned to the sale from a private collection.

A century after Lavery’s visit, Montreux remains one of the world’s most exclusive destinations, and the Palace Hotel is still going strong.

Dublin's river Dodder, although it flows through some of the capital's most exclusive districts, is a world away from Swiss luxury. The Dodder in Flood, Ballsbridge, Dublin, a 1929 painting by Jack B Yeats, is Lot 24 in the auction, and is estimated at €30,000-€40,000.

Powerful work

Whyte’s described it as “a powerful work which compacts the crushing flow of the river into a punchy oil - sure to attract buyers from this salubrious area of the capital. Although the palette is composed predominately of blacks and greys, close examination reveals, like most Yeats’, a vibrant and colourful underbelly where reds, pinks, yellows and blues peek through the licks and scrapes shaped on the board.”

The river Dodder, which is tidal up to Ballsbridge, has a long history of flooding, and the painting captures one such event. Yeats was living at the time reasonably close to the river (in Marlborough Road, Donnybrook).

The painting was first exhibited at Yeats's one-man show at the Alpine Club Gallery in London in 1929 when it was purchased by Mrs George Bernard Shaw. It has since changed hands a number of times, and last appeared at auction just two years ago – at Sotheby's in London where it sold for £20,000.

The sale, by coincidence, features another painting of the river: Lot 144, The Dodder at Milltown by Fergus O'Ryan, a rather more affordable €1,500-€2,000.

Two paintings by Paul Henry are on offer: Lot 11, Coomasaharn, County Kerry, a 1930s painting estimated at €50,000-€70,000, and an an earlier work, Lot 14, Mountainous Landscape, West of Ireland, thought to depict a view from Rosroe, Co Mayo, €50,000-€70,000.

Like Paul Henry, the artist Gerard Dillon was also born in Belfast. He was a self-taught artist who died prematurely, aged 55, in 1971. Although many of his paintings were inspired by the west of Ireland, in this auction Whyte's is offering a painting inspired by his visit to Italy in the summer of 1947; Lot 41, Italian with Fowl , estimated at €50,000-€70,000.

According to a catalogue note by Dr Riann Coulter, "arguably if it were not for the title it would be possible to situate this image in the west of Ireland where Dillon found so much of his inspiration".

He said that Dillon was not impressed by Italy nor the country’s art history and, with typical Northern Irish dourness, complained that he couldn’t paint in Italy because “everything is too bright and gleaming”.

If the painting looks somewhat familiar that’s because it attracted attention in 2011 when it last appeared at auction in Adam’s in Dublin, where it sold for €85,000 (over double its top estimate of €35,000).

Equestrian paintings

There's no end to the flood of paintings by Basil Blackshaw – a Northern Ireland artist who died last year – coming to auction, and Whyte's has some of his equestrian paintings including Lot 69, Grey Horse in a Stable (€50,000-€70,000); and, Lot 68, Horses Exercising (€30,000-€40,000).

Among more affordable pieces are Lot 166, Drawing Room of a House in Holland Park, London'by Mark O'Neill (€6,000-€8,000); and Lot 23, Garden at Kilmurry, Co Kilkenny'(watercolour) by Mildred Anne Butler (€3,500-€4,500) ; and, Lot 147, Taking Stock, a classic Irish scene depicting farmers at a cattle mart (€3,000-€5000).

Other artists among many represented in the auction include William John Leech. Daniel O’Neill, Percy French, Frank McKelvey and Tony O’Malley.

The sale features some 180 lots, and is on public view from Saturday (November 25th) at the RDS Anglesea Road entrance, Ballsbridge, from 10am to 6pm daily. Parking is free.

The auction will be broadcast live on the internet and an online catalogue and bidding details are at