Lot 16
  • 16

RODERIC O'CONOR | Girl Reading

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Girl Reading
  • stamped with atelier O'Conor stamp on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 54 by 65cm., 21¼ by 25½in.
  • Executed circa 1907-8.


Studio of the Artist;
Hotel Drouot, Paris, Vent O'Conor, 7 February 1956;
Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London, where purchased by Lieutenant-Colonel Plunkett, 19th Baron of Dunsany, in 1957, and thence by descent to the present owner


London, Roland, Browse and Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor Paintings: collectors' drawings, 19th and 20th century, 1957, no.13;
Belfast, Ulster Museum, Roderic O'Conor 1860-1940, 1985, no.54, with tour to Barbican Art Gallery, London


Jonathan Benington, Roderic O'Conor: A Biography with a Catalogue of his Work, Dublin, 1992, no.117, p.204

Catalogue Note

When O'Conor moved into his own studio in Paris around 1901, the fact that he settled in the district of Montparnasse cannot have been accidental. His former teacher Carolus-Duran occupied premises just off the Boulevard Montparnasse, Katherine McCausland an Irish painter friend was a close neighbour, and Gauguin kept a studio at 6, rue Vercingetorix during 1894-5, a period when he and O'Conor maintained regular contact. The vivid chrome yellow walls of Gauguin's atelier were decorated not only with his own paintings, ceramics and wood carvings, but also works by Van Gogh and Cézanne alongside exotic objects from diverse cultures. In establishing his studio at 102 rue du Cherche-midi, O'Conor likewise created an environment in which he could draw, paint, pose his models and display items from his burgeoning private art collection. This already included originals by Bonnard, Gauguin and Modigliani, supplemented by decorative items such as Chinese vases, Breton faïence and Delft apothecary jars. In Girl Reading the recumbent figure, dressed in a long skirt and seated on a chaise longue with her book facing the windows at her back, is within touching distance of well stocked shelves, three large vases and a sculpture of a nude female figure (its gestures echo those seen in the reliefs from the Javanese temple of Borobodur that so influenced Gauguin). O'Conor would have lent the model one of the books from his extensive private library, for he was a talented amateur bibliophile.

By directing his gaze downwards and cropping the tall studio windows and wooden beams above them, the artist ensure his young model is fully integrated into the interior that surrounds her. The space is truncated by placing the figure close to a corner of the room, with a glazed cabinet positioned in front of the dividing wall. The effect of such deliberate stage-setting is to create the impression of a modestly scaled but comfortable domestic interior. In reality, however, O'Conor's studio was much more capacious and workaday. To reinforce the relaxed, casual ambience he has deployed a palette of bright colours, coupled with the same type of loose, gestural brushwork that he used for the first time in his Breton seascapes. The spectator becomes a voyeur, glimpsing a moment of quiet self-absorption, with the model blissfully unaware of our presence.

At the time this canvas was painted O'Conor was in his late forties, Fauvism was well established and Picasso had recently completed Les demoiselles d'Avignon, heralding the advent of Cubism. Despite witnessing these developments as a fully fledged participant in the Parisian art scene, O'Conor remained true to his principles of rendering observed forms faithfully in natural light. He greatly admired Auguste Renoir's sensuous handling of paint and his predilection for colours from the warm end of the spectrum. Like Renoir, O'Conor tended to work directly, drawing and painting at the same time.

Jonathan Benington