‘Worthless’ Paul Henry paintings sell for €143k each, to Irish and US bidders

‘Incredible. We have never had so many bidders on the phone before,’ says auctioneer

In Connemara by Paul Henry: the owners thought it was worth nothing

In Connemara by Paul Henry: the owners thought it was worth nothing

 

Two Paul Henry paintings presumed to be worthless prints by their owners have sold for $170,000, or about €143,000, each at a Caza Sikes sale in Cincinnati.

The paintings, which were the last two items in a storage unit, had belonged to the late Carol and Robert Kane, an Ohio couple whose sons consigned their parents’ estate to auction. They were estimated to be worth $60,000-$80,000 (about €51,000-€68,000) after being spotted by Graydon Sikes of the auction house, who is an appraiser on the US version of the TV series Antiques Roadshow. He recognised that they were not prints and were in fact by Ireland’s foremost impressionist, Paul Henry.

Referencing the artist’s catalogue raisonné, and consulting industry professionals in Ireland and the United States, the auction house relayed its discovery to one of the brothers, who “nearly fainted”.

Even an hour before the sale, we were taking calls from Ireland and had to get more lines in. We ended up with 10 phone bidders from the Emerald Isle

“It was incredible,” says Evan Sikes, who conducted the sale. “While we have had pieces achieve six-figure sums, we have never had so many bidders on the phone before. Even an hour before the sale, we were taking calls from Ireland and had to get more lines in. We ended up with 10 phone bidders from the Emerald Isle. Overall there were bidders from the United States, Italy, the Isle of Man and Ireland.”

Lot 10, an untitled work depicting a Connemara landscape, is on its way back to Ireland, having been purchased by two brothers here, while the second painting, In Connemara, was purchased by a buyer in the United States.

“I was quite shocked that this bidder bought it through the Invaluable [online bidding platform] site, as there is a higher buyers’ premium, so they obviously want to remain anonymous,” says Sikes. “What was also incredible was an Italian bidder drove the prices of both paintings up, with steady bidding, but ended up with neither. I also didn’t expect both to achieve so much, as the consensus was that the first [Lot 10, Untitled] was a better painting, so clearly the second was bought by someone who lost out on the first.”

Paul Henry: the second, untitled painting; both will be auctioned by Casa Sikes in Cincinnati on September 8th
Paul Henry: Lot 10, an untitled painting, is on its way back to Ireland

As the paintings were framed under glass, they have been protected from the elements and dirt, so are in mint condition, and neither was known to exist before the sale. They were originally bought by the consignors’ great-grandfather Patrick McGovern, who had emigrated to the United States in 1891, and went on to become a successful civil engineer, serving as the chief structural engineer and tunnel builder for the Philadelphia, New York and Boston aqueducts and subways.

The Kane family had owned the works for generations, but their significance had been lost over time. After nearly fainting when first told of the estimated value of the works, the two brothers are “over the moon and delighted that at least one of the paintings is returning to Ireland”.

The record price fetched for a Paul Henry painting was surpassed in July 2021, when Mountains and Lake, Connemara achieved £622,500 (€730,199, including premium) at the Christie’s BJ Eastwood sale, so the sale of these paintings may well be astute investments. Meanwhile, the Sikes brothers in Cincinnati have “bought some Guinness to celebrate”.

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