Details & Cataloguing

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns


Roderic O'Conor
1860 - 1940
signed l.l.: O'Conor; also signed and inscribed on the reverse: R. O'Conor, Pour L'orphelinat des Arts
oil on panel
37.5 by 46cm., 14¾ by 18¼in.
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Godolphin Gallery, Dublin;
Oriel Gallery, Dublin;
Phillips, London, 14 November 1989, lot 51


Godolphin Gallery, Dublin, Roderic O'Conor, A Selection of his Best Works in Ireland,  1978, no.19, illustrated;
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, America’s Eye: Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 25 September 1997 - 4 January 1998; 
Washington, John F. Kennedy Center, Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 13 - 28 May 2000, illustrated p.69


J. Benington, Roderic O'Conor, A Biography with a Catalogue of his Work, Dublin, 1992, p.221, no.259

Catalogue Note

In the 1920s O'Conor painted many flower-pieces in a style that might be termed expressive realism. He applied his colours thickly, often with the palette knife, whilst relying on natural light to throw his props into relief and create dramatic tonal contrasts. Such paintings found eager buyers within his circle: Roger Fry, Matthew Smith and Somerset Maugham all secured examples, whilst the French State purchased his Le pot chinois in 1927 for the Musée du Jeu de Paume (now Musée d'Orsay).

The technique of cropping the bottom of a vase holding flowers was employed by Cézanne in some of his still lifes (see for example the latter's Vase of Flowers in the Norton Simon Museum). O'Conor adopts it here in order to lend greater emphasis to the pink and red blooms arranged in a jug. Indeed the flower stems are confronted virtually at eye level and against a dark, indeterminate background that seems to push them upwards and outwards, as witness the uppermost blossom that is cropped by the picture edge. The jug is a piece of Quimper faïence decorated with a simple garland of leaves, indicating that O'Conor continued to use Breton objects in his still lifes two decades after leaving the province.

The inscription on the reverse of the wooden support is identical to that found on an O'Conor flowerpiece in the collection of the Ulster Museum. The artist evidently offered these two works for sale, having decided to donate any proceeds to an establishment set up to care for the orphaned children of artists. The dedication shows that the elderly O'Conor retained a sympathy for those who faced hardship and loss in their lives.

Jonathan Benington

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns