Two upcoming sales offer art lovers the opportunity to add some serious heavyweights to their collections. The first is the BJ Eastwood Collection, of important Irish and sporting pictures, which will be offered for sale by Christie’s London over three sales in June and July.
Boxing promoter and businessman Barney Eastwood (1922-2020) – known to his friends and family as “BJ” – was born in Northern Ireland in 1932. Dedicated to sport from an early age, he was a talented Gaelic football player and was a member of the Co Tyrone team which won the All-Ireland minor medal in 1948. Horse and greyhound racing were passions all his life and together with his friend and business partner Alfie McLean, also in the bookmaking business, he had many successful runners over the years.
Eastwood’s passion for sport and his eye for quality and detail translated into a fascination with sporting and Irish art. He followed the great sales of the 1970s and 1980s and built an outstanding collection of the genre’s greatest examples.
“With an enquiring mind he sought advice from the leading experts and committed his thrill of the chase to auction,” according to Christie’s.
Of Irish interest are two paintings by Jack Butler Yeats. The Kerry Mascot: On the Road to Croke Park depicts the Gaelic football final between Kerry and Wexford at Croke Park in 1914 (£200,000-£300,000/€232,500-€348,800) and The Old Days, which was formerly in the collection of American film producer John Huston when he lived at St Clerans in Co Galway during the 1950s and 1960s (£500,000-£800,000/€581,300-€938,100).
Freud’s personal bookie
Also featured in the Irish section is The Terrace, Cap d'Ail by John Lavery (£400,000-£600,000/€465,060/€697,600). Sporting works include three Alfred James Munnings: Silks and Satins of the Turf (£300,000-£500,000/€348,800-€581,300); The Coming Storm (£600,000-£800,000/€697,600-€938,100) and The Vagabonds (£700,000-£1 million/€813,860-€1.16m).
Eastwood was introduced to figurative artist Lucian Freud by McLean who was the artist's personal bookie and who was depicted in several portraits in the mid-1970s. It is said that they shared a passion for high-octane sport and Freud had a ringside seat at Barry McGuigan's world title fight in 1985. Three works by Freud: Young Man with Arms Folded, and Plate of Prawns are each listed at £800,000-£1.2 million (€938,100-€1.395m), and Head of Girl (1969) has a £20,000-£30,000 (€23,250-€34,879) estimate.
Christie's third sale of Eastwood's collection, which is a private sales exhibition so prices are not disclosed for some reason, will be showcased in the Churchill and his Artistic Allies exhibition in London. It features two works by Walter Sickert who is regarded by some as the greatest British artist between Turner and (Irish born) Francis Bacon.
Twenty years ago American crime novelist Patricia Cornwell caused uproar in the genteel art world when she ripped up a canvas in an effort to prove that Sickert was the notorious Jack the Ripper. Not only did she rip up the painting, she also spent £2 million (€2.3m) buying 31 of his artworks, some letters and his writing desk, declaring she was "100 per cent certain" she had cracked the case on the painter. Sickert had previously been linked to the murders, but usually as an unwilling accomplice in a masonic conspiracy to cover up a scandal surrounding Queen Victoria's grandson whose passion for prostitutes left him with syphilis of the brain. Cornwell was convinced that a defect in Sickert's penis coupled with a failure to produce any progeny from three marriages turned him into a serial killer. Tearing up the canvas was described by those in the art world at the time as "monstrously stupid".
Jack B Yeats
De Vere's Outstanding Irish Art and Sculpture sale on June 22nd has two paintings by Jack B Yeats, and though both executed in 1948, they could not be more different. Little Horse at Play features one of the artist's central motifs, a horse, which is said to draw on the artist's Sligo childhood. The fluid swirls in green, blue and lemon "epitomise a moment of total exhilaration", according to Dr Frances Ruane in the catalogue (€200,000-€300,000). The setting for The Good Grey Morning was the artist's house on Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin, with views across the chimney tops and painted shortly before he started taking short breaks in the Portobello Nursing Home where he spent several years before his death (€200,000-€300,000).
Further notable works include Sunny Day, Connemara by Paul Henry (€70,000-€100,000); Adam and Eve in the Garden, a colour-inverted Aubusson tapestry by Louis le Brocquy, which has been described as "linking the refined simplicity of medieval weaving with the mastery of Cubist drawings" (€60,000-€80,000) and Prodigal Son, a superb work by Hughie O'Donoghue (€15,000-€20,000), along with paintings by Roderic O'Conor, John Shinnors and Basil Blackshaw which can be viewed at the showrooms on Kildare Street. In addition, there are 40 lots of sculpture in the sale which will be on view in the garden of the Merrion Hotel from Thursday, June 17th. christies.com, deveres.ie