Sail away with an early Paul Henry at Whytes
Major painting by Yeats and a collection of Kernoffs feature in summer sale
Paul Henry, ‘Killary Bay’, Lot 27
A Paul Henry painting which has never been seen in public is one of the major works in Whyte’s Irish art sale at the RDS later this month. Acquired from the artist by the present owner’s grandfather, an amateur artist who painted with Henry in the west of Ireland, the painting depicts a sailboat on Killary Harbour. “It’s in its original frame,” says Whyte’s head of art, Adelle Hughes. “Dr SB Kennedy, who’s the expert on Henry, dates it to between 1910 and 1915 because of the dot between the “l” and the “H” on the signature. He says it’s the earliest sailboat that he knows of.”
Killary Bay (lot 27, €50,000-€70,000) is one of two works by Henry in the sale. Western Skies, 1919 (lot 26, €50,000-€70,000) is a larger, darker painting which – despite its title – actually shows a stretch of bogland near Glarryford in Co Antrim.
“They’re very different paintings with very different atmospheres,” says Hughes. Although the bog painting is rather forbidding at first sight with its menacing cumulus clouds, she points out that the foreground contains some gorgeously textured green detailing.
Green detailing is also much in evidence in Jack B Yeats’s Morning Glory, 1945 (lot 38, €80,000-€120,000). The most expensive work in the sale, it shows two travellers on the cobbled street of a deserted town, one with his face lifted to a stream of morning sunlight.
“This is one of strongest examples by Yeats we have handled in recent sales,” says Hughes. “The brushwork is exquisite and up close the canvas is alive with colour. The figure being so prominent in the foreground will appeal to collectors, as will its beautiful presentation and condition.”
If the Yeats is the ultimate sunshine painting, Daniel O’Neill’s Maternity (lot 52, €15,000-€20,000) belongs to the hours of darkness and is, says Hughes, a very special work. “I had a baby a year and a half ago, so I’m a bit biased about this one,” she says. “It’s just so gentle, and it’s a night-time scene which reminds you of those very quiet moments in the middle of the night when you’re getting up with a child.”
The inimitable spirituality of Harry Clarke is displayed in two Stations of the Cross, full-sized watercolour designs (lot 33, €8,000-€10,000) for the stained-glass windows at St Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg which show Clarke’s jewel-like use of colour and expressive, pointed faces.
Meanwhile, the unmistakable face of James Joyce, as painted in watercolour by Louis le Brocquy, materialises from dabs of brilliant purple, blue and green (lot 38, €15,000-€20,000). This watercolour portrait was given to Bono by the artist, and subsequently gifted to the current owner – a provenance which may well have an impact on the day of the sale.
Also coming under the hammer at Whyte’s are a number of works by Neville Johnson, led by lot 59, Breakfast at Wilby, 1977, (€8,000-€12,000) and a group of Percy French landscapes including Bog Landscape With Turf Stacks (lot 14, €6,000-€8,000). Among the sculptures at the sale are two bronzes by John Henry Foley, Oliver Goldsmith (lot 105, €3,000-5,000) and Edmund Burke (lot 106, €3,000-€5,000) and two busts by Rory Breslin, one of Seamus Heaney (lot 107, €3,000-€5,000) and a personification of the River Blackwater (lot 109, €5,000-€7,000). For sheer presence, however, it would be hard to beat Anthony Scott’s bronze Bull (lot 110, €3,000-€5,000).
Formed by members of the Segal family, who made medals for the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, the Segal Collection of Harry Kernoff is also coming under the hammer at Whyte’s. Lots 40 and 41 (each €3,000-€5,000) show the Dún Laoghaire pier of 1931 in sparkling summer form and still easily recognisable almost a century later.
But there’s a bit of a mystery about lot 39, Pub Scene (€5,000-€7,000).
“I did a lot of searching to see if I could find the name of the pub,” says Hughes. “I thought maybe it was a very well-known pub in Victoria Street in London. We took it out of the frame because sometimes he has details inscribed on the back, but in the end we couldn’t identify it.”
If anyone can place the site of this bustling scene, with its busy tables under the trees, its child dressed in vivid blues and its air of “all human life is there” – you might let her know.
Whyte’s, 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. Important Irish Art, RDS, Monday May 28th, 6pm. For online catalogue, viewing details and further information see whytes.ie