Lot 31
  • 31

GERARD DILLON | Lobster Pots

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Gerard Dillon
  • Lobster Pots
  • signed l.r.: Gerard Dillon; titled on the reverse
  • oil on board
  • 51 by 61cm., 20 by 24in.
  • Painted in 1951.


Christie's, London, 20 May 1999, lot 21, where purchased by the present owners


Irish Exhibition of Living Art, 1951, no.107;
London, Piccadilly Gallery, Two Irish Painters, George Campbell & Gerard Dillon, June 1955, no.61;
The Irish Club, London, Gerard Dillon & George Campbell, July-August 1955, no.11


J. White, Gerard Dillon An Illustrated Biography, Dublin, 1994, p.45 (illustrated), p.112;
J. MacIntyre, Three Men on an Island - George Campbell, Gerard Dillon, James MacIntyre, Belfast, 1996, p.89 (illustrated)


The board appears sound and the work in very good overall condition. Under ultraviolet light there appear to be no signs of retouching. Held in a gilt plaster frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Karen Reihill for her kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work. In the preface to his biography of the artist, (Gerard Dillon, An Illustrated Biography, 1994) James White writes of his friendship with Gerard Dillon: ‘He cultivated simplicity and a love of childhood openness and honesty and he was the only artist whom I ever believed was really sincere when he declared that he wanted to paint with a child’s directness.’ 

Like many influential Irish artists of the 20th century, Gerard Dillon was enchanted with the West of Ireland. But his paintings offer us a very different view of what was in some cases portrayed as an idealized landscape. Dillon utilizes his unique simplicity and directness to record landscapes full of the people of the West, busy accounts of daily life and customs. His scenes, like bird’s-eye snapshots, record his days in Connemara with a lively lyrical narrative, providing a relaxed and informal visual diary. We are introduced to cottages, children, hens, haystacks and currachs; every canvas is spilling with stone walls and sea, and each one is overflowing with the essence of life in the west of Ireland in the mid-20th century. 

The present work dates from 1951 and was painted the same year that Dillon had been offered the use of a cottage on the island of Inislacken just off Roundstone, and he invited fellow artists George Campbell and James MacIntyre to join him on the trip. This picture, set in Roundstone harbour in Connemara, depicts two central figures who appear to be discussing the rental of two lobster pots with a local fisherman. A third man approaches laden with a heavy bag. There is an obvious contrast between the three men and the fisherman, and it is easy to imagine that these three men are not locals. The fisherman seems to be flicking a stack of coins from his right hand to his left; as though the deal has been done. 

Dillon’s paintings are often auto-biographical, and in Lobster Pots we can envisage that here we have the artist and his friends preparing their supplies for their trip to the island, before descending the steps of the pier, loading the empty currach that awaits them in the water below and setting off to row to Inishlacken. Although there is no documented evidence, it has been previously suggested that the figure staring directly at the viewer is the artist himself. 

Dillon had abandoned classes at the Belfast School of Art mindful that they might interfere with his strongly held belief in his artistic vision to always strive to retain and nurture the simplicity and originality in his painting. This vision flourishes in the originality of the present work. For him, the tight-knit community of the West, with its language, traditions and connection to the land and sea, represented something wholly apart from the fast-paced modernity of the twentieth century.