Sombre feel to spring art offerings at Adam’s

Some paintings appear to reflect the mood of the nation with themes of uncertainty and isolation

Considering the current climate of uncertainty regarding coronavirus, there is a touch of irony that the top lot in Adam's Important Irish Art sale on Wednesday, March 25th, is The Sick Bed by Jack B Yeats.

The painting depicts a man in a blue suit beside a patient, whose pallor tells the story of her weakness. "The surroundings serve as a haven of comfort, order and natural affection in contrast to the complexities of the world outside," according to Dr Roisin Kennedy in the catalogue notes (Lot 53, €250,000-€350,000).

Some lots in the catalogue appear to reflect the mood of the nation and what may lie ahead in the coming weeks with themes of uncertainty, isolation and death.

Even the ghost-like Image of Samuel Beckett by Louis le Brocquy is a more sombre representation of Beckett than others from the artist's head series.

Le Brocquy, who had a close friendship with Beckett, painted the watercolour three years after Beckett’s death – where his eyes are closed and mouth drawn – which makes this a very poignant work. (Lot 82, €15,000-€20,000).

A second Yeats: Bound for the Islands, shows a sailor standing alone on a headland waving out to a boat to sea. The catalogue suggests the boat and occupants are bound for the islands “while the sailor, much like humanity, bids them well but remains behind”.

Considering Yeats painted this in his 80th year, it also begs the question whether he was reflecting on his own mortality (Lot 36, €50,000-€70,000).

More isolation is represented in John Doherty’s Road Series Study – Flyover 2. The photorealist painting depicts a deserted flyover give or take a handful of cars, which bears an uncanny resemblance to deserted Italian and Asian motorways that now flood our newsfeeds (Lot 109, €1,500-€2,000).

The distinctive The Gentle Art of Misconception by John Boyd, of men in Victorian masks, is also underscored with a sense of bleakness and isolation. His works, which have garnered a loyal following, hint at complex and unresolved narratives replete with a quiet but profound anguish (Lot 84, €4,000-€6,000).

But all is not lost. St Anne, patron saint of sailors and protector from storms makes an appearance in St Anne and the Poppies by William Leech (Lot 37, €6,000-€10,000) as does the biblical character who overcame Goliath in the marvellous Birth of David by Colin Middleton (Lot 89, €20,000-€30,000).

After a long time in hospital, followed by a fire at his studio that consumed everything “like flames that remove old growth in a forest, a place was cleared”, which allowed Basil Blackshaw’s talent to start afresh.

This is represented in his work The Big House (Lot 58, €12,000-€18,000) with a huge burst of sunshine yellows, of which the catalogue says it  “immortalises a period in which Blackshaw’s artistic voice could be likened to a bellow”.

More bursts of sunshine can be found in the Uccello Aubusson tapestry by Louis le Brocquy, where jewel-like oranges appear in a cloud of greenery against a deep blue sky (Lot 80, €30,000-€50,000) and also, in the equally colourful Still Life with Judgement VII by Conor Walton (Lot 83, €3,000-€5,000).

More cheer be found in the beautiful Ma Than E by Sir Gerald Festus Kelly, of a Burmese girl in shocking pinks (Lot 54, €40,000-€60,000) and three Paul Henry's add a touch of Connemara colour.

If you are missing the rugby this weekend Lot 77 Rugby Player – A Charge for the Line is a well-timed entry (€3,000-€5,000).

And if you’ve had enough of hearing headlines regarding the constant worry and woes of Covid-19, Lot 119 may strike a chord. Barry Castle’s Odysseus and the Sirens tells the story of how the Greek legend stuffed his fellow sailors’ ears with beeswax to block the sirens call. Current affairs programmes can be a bit like the Greek sirens’ song; while irresistible to listen to they may just drive you to distraction.(€1,500-€2,000)

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