The Ireland that we dreamed of?

Ahead of St Patrick’s Day, the catalogue for Adam’s art auction offers artists’ differing impressions of Ireland


The thoughts of Irish people worldwide will turn homewards tomorrow, St Patrick’s Day. “The Ireland that we dreamed of,” according to then taoiseach Éamon de Valera’s radio broadcast on March 17th, 1943, was “a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.”

Many artists have attempted to portray this “ideal” vision of Ireland – a suspiciously rain-free land of whitewashed thatched cottages, blue mountains, brown bog and emerald green fields.

The forthcoming auction of important Irish art at Adam’s in Dublin on March 26th – the catalogue is online at – offers aficionados of Dev’s Ireland a wide choice of comfortingly traditional images including the mischievously titled Carraroe on a Sunny Day by Charles Lamb (€3,000-€5,000); the charming Sunlight and Shadows - Study In Connemara, Farmer At Work by Seán O’Sullivan (€2,500-€3,500); and the nostalgic Going to Mass by Estella Solomons (€3,000-€5,000).

Pricier lots include two significant pictures by Ulster painters. James Humbert Craig’s Unloading The Catch, Killary Harbour (€15,000-€25,000) and Frank McKelvey’s Children In The Park (€20,000-€30,000), believed to be set in Belvoir Park, Belfast, which “demonstrates the outdoor afternoon social scene in Belfast during the 1940s”.

John Doherty (born Kilkenny, 1949) offers a healthy dose of realism and an antidote to the Paul Henry-like romantic views of rural life. Few modern Irish artists have captured the humdrum essence of small-town Ireland as honestly or accurately as this architect-turned- painter who now divides his time between Ireland and Australia. Doherty’s paintings often feature forlorn shops and pubs, and rusting petrol pumps. A wonderful example, titled Loitering at McCarthy’s Garage , is one of the highlights of this auction and has an estimate of €20,000- €30,000. It’s the larger of two versions of this garage in Skibbereen, Co Cork, which he painted in 2006.

Viewing at Adam’s begins next Friday in the saleroom at 26, St Stephen’s Green.