Unseen pub scene by Jack B Yeats depicts hospitable refuge

Adam’s auction includes a double-sided Tony O’Malley, although it’s not a Bacon this time

Adam's first art auction of 2016 in its St Stephen's Green saleroom takes place next Wednesday evening and includes Man Reading by Jack B Yeats. Dating from 1945, and appearing at auction for the first time, it is estimated at €60,000-€90,000.

Adam’s said the painting was “acquired directly from the artist through the Waddington Galleries in Dublin in 1945 by the current owners’ family and remained in their private collection, unseen by the public ever since”.

The painting is one of a number of depictions of pub interiors that Yeats painted and, according to a catalogue note that might surprise pub-goers after a week of St Patrick’s Day-related revelry, Dr Róisín Kennedy, an expert on the artist, says: “for Yeats, and clearly for the figures in this painting, a pub was not a place to get drunk in, but a refuge where one could think, read or converse and while away an hour or two in a hospitable atmosphere.”


She explained the painting as depicting “a scene of quiet contemplation in a public house in the middle of the day. Three oddly congenial companions stand at the bar. A view of the empty street outside and the semi-circular shaped fanlights of its Georgian doorways are clearly discernible. One of the men stands reading with his hand in his pocket. His other hand supports his head as he gazes in close concentration at the pages of his book. The barmaid and another customer look on, each lost in their own thoughts.”


An earlier painting by Yeats, before he went "abstract", entitled Girl at Well, dating from 1921, is estimated at €40,000-€60,000.

Tony O’Malley

Tony O’Malley, the artist born in



Co Kilkenny

, who died in 2003, has been in the news this month because Christie’s in London auctioned a pair of his paintings that had been made on a board – which he had cut in half – originally used, and then discarded, by fellow artist

Francis Bacon

. When the two O’Malley paintings are reversed and joined together they reveal a “lost”, unfinished work by Bacon. Like many cash-strapped artists, O’Malley used whatever “canvasses” he could get his hands on.

Lot 33 is a painting by O'Malley entitled The Field History of Callan – on a piece of board measuring approximately 35 by 47 inches, dated June 1979, and estimated at €15,000-€20,000. But on the back of the board there's another, quite similar painting by O'Malley.

Auctioneer David Britton said bidders would be getting "two for the price of one" and the main image is signed and inscribed by O'Malley, but the image on the back is brighter and probably more commercial and was the image the current owner had shown. "The way it is framed, it is very easy to flip around – if you get tired looking at one side you can show the other. Unfortunately, if there was a Bacon on one side, he painted over it."

The top lot in the auction, however, is A Connemara Village by Paul Henry, from the collection of the former Fine Gael taoiseach John A Costello – estimated at €70,000-€100,000. Costello, who died in 1976, reputedly bought the painting for £85 at Combridge's Gallery, Dublin in 1937, and it has been in the family ever since.

Important Irish Art auction at Adam’s , 26 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, on Wednesday, March 23rd, at 6pm. Viewing begins tomorrow, Sunday, March 20th, at 2pm.