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Details & Cataloguing

Irish Art

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London

John Luke
1906 - 1975
SELF-PORTRAIT
signed and dated u.r.: John Luke/ 1929; also signed and inscribed on the reverse: DIPLOMA / J. LUKE
oil on canvas laid on board
40 by 30cm., 15¾ by 12in.
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Provenance

Private collection, Ireland

Exhibited

Belfast, Queen’s University Common Room, John Luke Exhibition, 1960, no.24;
Belfast, The Bell Gallery, John Luke: Work from the Studio, February-March 1980, no.71;
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, 20 October 2010–13 February 2011, no.75

Literature

Joseph McBrinn, Northern Rhythm: The Art of John Luke (1906-1975), Belfast, National Museums Northern Ireland, 2012, p.16

Catalogue Note

During the three years John Luke attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London he is known to have painted several self-portraits. Two of these, both dating from 1928, were purchased by the Ulster Museum in Belfast following the major retrospective of the artist’s work mounted there in 1978. One is in a traditional academic style typical of the rigorous approach to draughtsmanship taught at the Slade. The other, which the artist gave the enigmatic title The Tipster, is similarly realistic yet full of imaginative symbolism heightened by the striking blue, green and black decorative frame reminiscent of the work of the Bloomsbury group.

This self-portrait was painted in 1929 and was submitted by Luke as part of his 'Diploma' work at the Slade in June 1930. Like the slightly later Self-Portrait as St. Francis and Natas (Self-Portrait) paintings, remained in the artist’s possession until his death. As with The Tipster a detailed preparatory pencil study for this self-portrait survives (sold Whyte's, 15 March 2010, lot 50) that shows the artist’s systematic approach to painting as underpinned by his exceptional drawing skills. The painting’s heightened decorative qualities, such as the palate of primary colours and the flat amber-gold background, indicates the increasing importance of the Italian Primitives, that Luke studied so assiduously in the National Gallery as a student, and that would eventually lead him to a lifelong study of tempera and fresco painting.

Dr. Joseph McBrinn

Irish Art

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London