'One of the advantages of a place like Aran is that you have to look into yourself and perhaps discover that you haven’t got a self, a discovery that cannot be made too soon in the case of a painter…' (Keating 1936, quoted in, Éimear O’Connor, Seán Keating, Co. Kildare, 2013, p.113)
It is possible that On the Pier was painted during, or as a result of a painting trip to the islands in 1939 when he produced a body of work based on the fishing communities there; Keating termed this his 'Aran series'. He produced a number of significant works in oils including Pier Head Exchange (1940), The Oars (1940), The Turf Quay (1941) and The Port Authority (1942). The present work certainly shares the same compositional characteristics and similarly reveals aspects of the difficult socio-economic conditions of the time.
The present work also relates closely to an oil painting by Keating titled Patrick Lynch's Boat (sold Whyte's, Dublin, 16 September 2003, lot 71) which was purchased from the artist by Victor Waddington, before being sold to Alfred Goodwin of the Goodwin Galleries in Limerick. It is likely that the present painting was a preparatory work or indeed a version of the oil painting. There are slight differences in the formation of the figure groups, although the characters remain the same as do the boat and pier wall. The work demonstrates Keating's proficiency in watercolour as well as oil, and is a significant example of Keating’s Aran series, revealing the powerful influence that the Aran Islanders and their landscape had on his artistic career.
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