Details & Cataloguing

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


Roderic O'Conor
1860 - 1940
studio stamp atelier O'CONOR on the reverse
oil on canvas
73 by 61cm., 28¾ by 24in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report


The artist's studio sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 7 February 1956;
Andras Kalman;
Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, sold to Mrs Walter Stern, 1964;
Christie's, London, 17 May 2001, lot 155


London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, Norman Adams, 1964, no.10;
London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, A Selection of his Best Work, 1971, no.16

Catalogue Note

During Conor's 13-year sojourn in Brittany he executed a handful of street scenes and views of stone cottages clinging to steep hillsides. The Red Roofs of around 1892 (Tate Collection) and Village Scene of 1898 (private collection) were characterised by strong Post-Impressionist colours, in keeping with the artist's direct inheritance from Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. Roof tops - a village shares a similar preoccupation with the interrelationships of organic forms - trees and hedgerows - and the manmade shapes of gables, roofs and chimneys.

By the early 1900s O'Conor had tempered his former expressionistic handling and fauvist colours, although in Roof Tops - a Village the dominance of orange and green calls to mind the palette used in works such as Figures in a Pool (sold Morgan O'Driscoll, 30 April 2018, lot 45). In pairing these complementary colours O'Conor generally aimed to express something of nature's bounty. The present work evokes the topography of Pont-Aven and may even depict the view looking out over the village's densely clustered houses from the artist's studio window in the Hôtel Julia. Working quickly and directly, O'Conor first drew a basic outline of the composition in blue paint, before applying his colours wet-on-wet onto unprimed canvas.

Amongst O'Conor's Pont-Aven School colleagues, Émile Bernard regularly painted street scenes and views of Pont-Aven, whilst Paul Sérusier and Gauguin both set up still lifes next to studio windows overlooking rooftops. Only O'Conor, however, took the radical step of restricting his composition to the four-square roofs, relegating walls, doors and windows to marginal roles or else excluding them altogether. Indeed the way the artist makes decorative play on the step-like progression of differently coloured roofs in this work is highly reminiscent of a painting he executed a few years earlier - Maisons rouges à Pont-Aven (sold in these rooms, 16 May 2002, lot 64). There may be more blending of colours in the present work, however the consistent avoidance of descriptive detail renders some areas of the canvas almost abstract, notably the ochre and light blue lozenges just below the horizon at far right.

Jonathan Benington

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