Man cutting hedge finds stolen paintings worth €180,000

Garda confirm recovery of works by Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry

A man cutting furze bushes in a field beside his holiday cottage in Co Wicklow on Tuesday has found paintings by leading Irish artists in a black bin bag.

The paintings, including works by Sir John Lavery, Paul Henry and Jack B Yeats, appear to be those stolen from a house in Co Wicklow last year. The paintings have an estimated value of €180,000.

Denis Russell (59), from Donard, Co Wicklow, told The Irish Times he was "strimming furze bushes" at lunchtime when he "saw a black bag stuck in the middle of a ditch".

He opened the bag and found three framed paintings. He said he “recognised a Paul Henry and a Yeats” and said the other picture was “a Lavery”.

All three were framed and “in good condition” although “the frame on the Lavery was a bit damaged,” he said.

He said a fourth picture in the black bag was an unframed canvas. According to a label from the Apollo Gallery in Dublin this was a portrait Samuel Beckett by Tom Byrne which has "mildew on the canvas".

The black bag seems to have been thrown into the ditch from the roadway but was “only visible from the field side”.

Mr Russell said the field was not used frequently as he now lives in London and returns to the cottage on the land that he owns for holidays.

The paintings may have lain there for almost 10 months after they went missing in October last year.

Donard village is close to the Glen of Imaal in west Co Wicklow.

Mr Russell photographed the paintings and then contacted Baltinglass Garda station and a female garda came to collect them.

In a statement gardaí said they had “recovered all the paintings” and taken them to Garda Headquarters for examination.

They said no arrests have been made in the investigation into the theft and that investigations are continuing.

They named three paintings as ‘Portrait of a Lady’ by Sir John Lavery, ‘Landscape with Cottage’ by Paul Henry, and ‘The Fern in the Area’ by Jack B Yeats.

Ian Whyte, a leading art auctioneer in Dublin said the combined value of the paintings could be "up to €180,000". The painting of Samuel Beckett by Tom Byrne is less valuable and one is currently for sale at the Duke Gallery in Dublin for €350.

Gardai appealing to anyone who can assist with the investigation to contact Baltinglass Garda Station on 059-6482610, the Garda Confidential Telephone Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda station”.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques