Details & Cataloguing

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


Roderic O'Conor
1860 - 1940
studio stamp (twice) atelier O'CONOR on the reverse 
oil on canvas
54.5 by 81.5cm., 21½ by 32in.
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The artist’s studio sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 7 February 1956;
Oscar Ghez, Musée du Petit Palais, Geneva;
Gorry Gallery, Dublin;
Christie's, London, 22 May 1998, lot 166


Dublin, Gorry Gallery, An exhibition of 18th, 19th and 20th century Irish Paintings, 1988, illustrated p.11, no.21;
Washington, John F. Kennedy Center, Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 13 - 28 May 2000, illustrated p.71

Catalogue Note

O'Conor's removal from Brittany to Paris in 1904 marked a turning point in his life and work. Gone were the Breton men, women and children clothed in regional costume who had been his subjects for the previous 13 years. Permanently installed in a capacious studio for the first time in his career, he turned his attention to female Parisian models who posed for him clothed and unclothed. He purchased a chaise longue, a large mirror and luxuriant drapes to use as props, instructing his model to adopt a range of poses which he would then interpret in quick sketches, before settling on the particular one he wanted to capture in paint.

The present work belongs to a group of studies that O'Conor undertook around 1915-6 showing the model reclining against a bright crimson drape. These works focused more directly on the figure than his earlier nudes, who were presented very much as occupants of a room setting. Here the setting has no role to play. The red paint has been applied broadly and fluidly to create a large expanse of saturated colour that provides a foil to the creamy flesh tones of the nude. Whereas the back of the couch and the model's head are cloaked in shadow, her torso and limbs are illumined by a steady light that has been rendered with a virtuoso flurry of bold brushstrokes, combining ochre, salmon, red and green.

A related drawing for this nude explores a similar pose, modified to show the model's left leg raised higher and her left arm tucked behind her head (Thierry-Lannon, Brest, 14 October 2009, lot 353).

Jonathan Benington


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