Details & Cataloguing

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


Henry Robertson Craig, R.H.A.
signed l.l.: Robertson Craig
oil on canvas
53 by 54.5cm., 21 by 25½in.
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Adam's, Dublin, 16 June 1993, lot  22                                                                                          


Boston, Boston College Museum of Art, America’s Eye: Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 26 January - 19 May 1996, illustrated, p.113, no.30 with tour to Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, 19 June - 25 August 1996 and New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 25 September 1996 - 4 January 1997;
Washington, John F. Kennedy Center, Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 13 - 28 May 2000, illustrated p.27;
Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, A Century of Irish Painting: Selections from the Brian P. Burns Collection, 3 March - 29 April 2007, illustrated p.63


Catalogue Note

Henry Robertson Craig was a highly accomplished portrait and landscape painter, born in Dumfries, Scotland. He trained at Scotland’s Dundee College, and together with his future partner, artist Patrick Hennessy, he trained under James McIntosh Patrick, RSA. During the second world war, Craig was stationed in London, where he worked on maps and camouflage; his spare time spent illustrating books and painting portraits. After the war, he moved to Crosshaven then to Cobh, county Cork, before settling in Dublin in 1950.[1] Of the 75 titles that he exhibited at Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy, several, like this, are ‘conversation’ pieces, for example: Conversation Piece (Miss Sheila Pim and Mr Patrick Hennessy) (1953), Conversation Piece, Dr and Mrs Lennox Robinson (1955), and Conversation Piece at Bruree House (1963). [2]

It has been suggested that the man who stands holding a book, is Sir Alexander Clutterbuck, who was then the British Ambassador to Ireland (from 1955-1959), and seated, reading, is perhaps the former’s driver or body-guard.[3] The way Craig positions him within the curtained opening into a library, is reminiscent of a proscenium arch, and deliberately theatrical. His importance as the main character in the portrait is further emphasised by his direct gaze, and by the shaft of sunlight leading towards him, and past him, from what must be a tall window behind us on the left. The other, less important man is by comparison shadowy, almost out of the frame, looking downwards to read. Shiny surfaces of the plates on display, and the large paintings propped on an easel, are emphasised further by the sun. An atmosphere of civilised calm is conveyed through muted greens and creams augmented with red, handled with impressionistic naturalism.

Craig had many portrait commissions, but the recession in Ireland during the 1950’s made it hard for him to make a living. A painting entitled Regatta, exhibited at the RHA in 1970, was described as ‘an outstanding portrait group depicting a number of his friends, including fellow Scotsman Patrick Hennessy (his life-long partner), art dealer David Hendricks and his sister Yvette, businessman and patron of the arts, Gordon Lambert and former curator of the Dublin Municipal Gallery, Patrick O’Connor.’[4]   

Dr Claudia Kinmonth MRIA

[1] Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists 20th Century (Merlin, Dublin, 2002), pp. 117-118.

[2] Ann M. Stewart, Royal Academy of Arts, index of Exhibitors 1826-1979, Vol. I A-G (Manton, Dublin, 1986), p. 170.

[3] Adele M. Dalsimer and Vera Krielkamp, America’s Eye: Irish paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns (Boston College Museum of Art, 1996), pp.112-113.

[4] Dalsimer and Krielkamp, America’s Eye, p.112.

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