Safe, comforting views of Ireland in first art auction of the year

Online auction with pieces from popular artists makes for a gentle start to 2018

The arrival of the new year in the Irish art market doesn't mean out with the old. Far from it. Most of the pictures in the first big art auction of 2018 – viewing this weekend at Morgan O'Driscoll Auctioneers in Skibbereen, Co Cork – are traditional, comforting views of Ireland by artists who have been selling well for decades.

Here's a random sample of the more affordable lots – with estimates under €1,000:
Lot 122, Summer, Inchydoney by John Morris (€400-€600);
Lot 101, Winter Evening, Dame Street by Peter Pearson (€500-€750);
Lot 145, 'Rossbeigh Beach, Co Kerry' by Stephen Cullen (€500-€750);
Lot 111, Ladies' Day at the Horse Show by Marie Carroll (€600-€900);
Lot 114, Horn Head, Co Donegal by Frank Egginton (€600-€900);
Lot 138, The Road Home by Markey Robinson (€600-€900); and, 
Lot 166, Struthon Pier by Ivan Sutton (€700-€1,000).
You get the picture.

Bigger budgets

For those on a higher budget, the names of the artists are also familiar and the subjects also largely traditional. Among examples:
Lot 11, Muckish Mountain, Co Donegal by James Humbert Craig (€4,000-€6,000);
Lot 9, Landscape, Co Down' by Daniel O'Neill (€6,000-€9,000);
Lot 1, Bottle Tower, Rathfarnham by Harry Kernoff (€2,000-€3,000);
Lot 16, Ploughing the Fields by Frank McKelvey (€5,000-€7,000);
Lot 20, An Old Mill by Norah McGuinness (€2,000-€3,000); and,
The Watchful Eyes by Mark O'Neill (€3,000-€5,000).

These images aren't just of appeal to domestic bidders. Morgan O'Driscoll has many customers among the Irish abroad – especially in London but also further afield. Last year, his online sales attracted bidders in 43 countries and business increased by 60 per cent compared to 2015.


There's likely to be interest in Lot 13 a watercolour entitled, according to the label on the back, as Portrait of John Fitzgerald Anster by Sir Frederic William Burton (€4,000-€6,000). An exhibition devoted to Burton has just ended at the National Gallery of Ireland which is home to his best-known painting – also a watercolour and supposedly the nation's favourite picture: Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. Burton, who was born in Co Wicklow in 1816, moved to London where he became a successful artist and director of Britain's National Gallery and died in 1900. John Anster Christian Fitzgerald was a Victorian English artist (with Irish roots ) who is best known as an illustrator and painter of fairies and other fantasy images – most famously a series inspired by the nursery rhyme Who Killed Cock Robin? The watercolour, which depicts him as a child practicing archery, is being sold from the estate of a late Irish antiques dealer, and is dated 1840.

The auction features 234 lots and bidding, which is online only, and ends on Monday, January 22nd.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques