Details & Cataloguing

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


Harry Kernoff, R.H.A.
signed and dated l.r.: KERNOFF '38
oil on board
60 by 73cm., 23½ by 28¾in.
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Sotheby's, London, 18 May 2001, lot 231

Catalogue Note

Kernoff’s view is taken looking down on the Bailey Lighthouse, across the calm waters of Dublin Bay, with the Dublin and Wicklow mountains in the distance. In the foreground, a grassy field, and a sea gull swooping over the blue waters of the bay. Characteristic of Kernoff however is his interest in the modern everyday world, with smoke from a funnel marking the passage of a ferryboat heading across the Irish Sea. The feeling for form and rhythm too is exemplary of Kernoff's stylised and distinctive painting technique. 

A keen-eyed chronicler of everyday life in Dublin city and suburbs, Harry Kernoff was born into a Jewish family that had fled from pogroms in Belarus, to the safety of London. His father, Isaac Kernoff, was a cabinet maker and when Harry was fourteen years old, the family moved from Stepney to Dublin, where Isaac joined the firm of Louis Gurevich, who had a cabinet making workshop on Capel Street. Settling in Stamer Street, in Dublin’s Jewish quarter, Kernoff, while serving an apprenticeship with his father, also attended evening classes at the Metropolitan School of Art, along with his brother Hyman. In 1923, a Taylor Scholarship enabled Kernoff to visit Paris, and to become a full time student at the Metropolitan School, where his teachers included Sean Keating, Patrick Tuohy and Harry Clarke. In 1926, the first exhibition of Kernoff’s work was held, at 7 Stephen’s Green, and over the following years he showed frequently, with the Society of Dublin Painters, the RHA and other group exhibitions and single person shows. Kernoff travelled to the USSR in 1930 and several of his paintings were reproduced in Iskusstvo y massy (Art to the Masses), a revolutionary art journal in Russia. In 1939 he travelled to New York, to paint a mural for the Irish pavilion at the World’s Fair.

Idyllic views of Dublin such as the present are rare in Kernoff's work; most of his paintings depict the working class areas of the city and suburbs of Sandymount and Dalkey.

Peter Murray

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