Important Irish art works on show at Paris exhibition

Sales mark centenary of the 1922 World Congress of the Irish Race

Three important Irish art works, that have rarely been seen in public, are currently being shown on loan at Sotheby’s dedicated cross category sale, Ireland/France: Art and Literature. The exhibition, at its Parisian office, marks the occasion of the centenary of the 1922 World Congress of the Irish Race.

Two of the works, The Market Day, Mayo, by Jack B Yeats, and Grace Henry's The Rosary were in the original exhibition of almost 300 works at Galerie Barbazagnes a century ago.

John Lavery’s The Bridge at the River Grez, of which the artist said, “My happiest days in France were passed in the colony outside Paris at Grez-sur-Loing”, is also on loan to the exhibition until the sale ends on May 16th.

Lavery’s A Stranger, which is listed at €120,000–€180,000 depicts a magical woodland at the edge of the Fontainebleau forest. The painting marks how the artist was so taken with the beauty of the place, commenting: “After my hard work in Paris I left the city and life drawing classes, and I became a landscape painter”.


Other highlights include five works by Roderic O’Conor, including the vibrant sunny, seaside Rocks and Foam, St Guenole .This painting marks the beginning of his most cohesive and extensive body of work, which were a series of Breton seascapes. Rocks and Foam, St Guenole, with its vivid hues, is one of the largest and most dramatic of the series, according to catalogue notes (€300,000–€500,000).

The sale features a remarkable Harry Kernoff, Sunday Evening – Place du Combat, Paris (€40,000–€60,000). Noted for his eagle-eyed chronicling of everyday life, here his distinct style provides a glimpse of Paris in the last of the evening sun. The artist first left for Paris in 1923, after winning the Taylor Scholarship, and this painting was executed in 1937. It is described as "a defining example of his oeuvre".

Two works by Louis le Brocquy from his head series feature: Image of James Joyce (€80,000–€120,000) and Image of Samuel Beckett (€70,000–€100,000), as does A Sandhill near Tralee Bay, by Jack B Yeats.

Acquired by Irish dramatist and poet Lennox Robinson in 1921, the work belongs to a group of panels that Yeats made on his first visit to Kerry in the summer of 1913. The artist's intention was to learn Irish – but the landscape moved him to paint (€40,000–€60,000).

The sale, which finishes this Monday, also has works by William Scott, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Rowan Gillespie, Mainie Jellett and W.B. Yeats.

More historical treasures can be found in Whyte’s Eclectic Collector sale, which takes place in a timed online auction on May 21st. The oldest lot in the sale is a Bronze Age sword from around 3,100 BC (€1,000–€1,500), so the sale itself spans about 5,000 thousand years.

"An outstanding historical relic", is the 1803 Proclamation written by Robert Emmet for the short-lived Irish rebellion, whereby Irish republicans attempted to seize the seat of British government in Ireland.

The catalogue says that the document provided Pádraig Pearse inspiration for the 1916 Proclamation but, “it is 15 times scarcer with only three recorded examples in private hands and none listed in State collections”, which goes to explain the €50,000–€70,000 estimate.

The sheet has a great provenance as it was once in the ownership of the Wolfe family from Co Kildare, and Theobald Wolfe Tone was given his name after his godfather Theobald Wolfe.

Over 200 lots alone mark the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. Ranging in value from €100–€12,000, which is for an extremely rare second – and last – bulletin published by Pádraig Pearse during the Rising in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the republican forces

A number of medals also feature, including one awarded to Kathleen Clarke, widow of executed leader, Tom Clarke, the indomitable activist who, along with Michael Collins, founded the National Aid Fund, and became the first woman lord mayor of Dublin in 1939. The medal was awarded in 1971 to those still living veterans of the War of Independence. She died the following year aged 94 (€8,000–€12,000).

As we now approach the final of the Decade of Centenaries, and as this year marks the foundation of the Free State and beginning of the Civil War, the catalogue has an extensive range of collectables related to these events.

Described as "probably the most important lot", is the "Suspension of Offensive" document, signed by the chief of staff of the Anti-Treaty IRA, Frank Aiken, which ended the Civil War on April 27th, 1923 (€8,000–€12,000).

Archive records from the estate of Joe Groome, the Dublin hotelier and Fianna Fáil activist who was a founder member of the party, will be of interest (€1,500–€2,000) to historians, as will an autograph book owned by Michael Collins, that includes signatures from the Irish Treaty delegation including Arthur Griffith and Erskine Childers, and also Sir John Lavery - who had painted Collins and Griffith (€6,000–€8,000). and

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables