Details & Cataloguing

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


Frank McKelvey, R.H.A., R.U.A.
signed l.r.: FRANK MCKELVEY; also inscribed signed, titled and dated 1918 on an old label attached to the backboard
62 by 47cm., 24½ by 18½in.
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Purchased in the 1980s


Dublin, Leinster House, Royal Dublin Society, Taylor Art Exhibition, 1918 (awarded First Prize)

Catalogue Note

This early watercolour by McKelvey was awarded first place at the Royal Dublin Society's Taylor Art Prize in 1918. That same year he began exhibiting at Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy, where his landscapes and figure paintings brought acclaim and recognition, totalling over 318 titles between 1918 and 1975. Celebrated for his Irish rural scenes and studies of poultry, his work is represented in numerous public collections. (Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists 20th Century (Dublin, 2002), pp.391-93).

In contrast to the rural landscapes for which he is best known (see lot 74), here McKelvey presents an interior in which the grandmother is warmed by a formal fireplace. Her sewing is lit by light cast from the right, bringing out blues and greens in her patterned squares of patchwork, in a studied V-shaped composition. Enveloped by the huge quilt that she is making, she minds a baby, watched intently by a girl and a small barefoot boy. Another quilt, and scraps of material, spill onto the boarded floor from a basket, beneath her sewing bag. Their comfortable clothes and good furniture suggest the parlour of a middle-class home, as opposed to a farmhouse (the latter portrayed with Patchwork by James Brenan RHA in 1891). (Claudia Kinmonth, Irish Rural Interiors in Art (Yale University Press, 2006) figs.107-108, pp.107-09).

Dr Claudia Kinmonth

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