Scenes of Ireland: Life and Landscape

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When considering a defining characteristic of Irish Art, the deep response to the landscape and its people, which has long held a central place within Irish cultural identity, stands strong. In our September auction, this connection is represented in a number of evocative works spanning the early 19th century to today. Click ahead to see highlights from the sale. 

Irish Art
13 September | London

Scenes of Ireland: Life and Landscape

  • Gerard Dillon, Mending Nets, Aran. Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    The landscape and people of the West Coast of Ireland, and the Aran Islands just off it, held a long fascination for Ireland’s painters and writers. It preserved a way of life that captivated them, and Dillon’s portrayals are some of the most celebrated. In his naïve painting style, he captures the spirit of these communities with poetry and joy. The Aran Islanders were skilful fishermen and in the present work, Dillon captures them at  moment of calm, mending nets, smoking a pipe and drinking port, while also playing close attention to their traditional dress. 

  • William Orpen, The Fiddler, Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    Orpen was one of the most exquisite draughtsman Ireland produced, exemplified in the present work. It is a study for a group of figures in Orpen’s large allegorical work The Western Wedding – a complex image of Irish identity mixing western peasant rusticity and catholic piety. The Western Wedding (1914) was destroyed probably in a warehouse fire, and so the The Fiddler is a significant record of this major work. 

  • Jack Butler Yeats, Porter, 1906. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    Another scene of life on the Aran Islands, a local drinks porter at a bar while friends gather around a fire in the background. Yeats was a supreme illustrator, and the present belongs to a series of 12 illustrations the artist was commissioned to produce for John Millington Synge’s book, The Aran Islands (1907). 

  • Paul Henry, The Road by the Lake, 1935. Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    Paul Henry produced some of the most evocative and celebrated paintings of the West of Ireland landscape. In the present example, painted c.1935, thatched, white-washed cottages with peat stacks in the foreground nestle under a large sky of billowing cumulus clouds, showing Henry at his technical best. The harmonious tones, swift and direct brushwork recall the influence of his teacher, Whistler. 



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  • Sean Keating, On the Pier, 1940. Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    Sean Keating first started painting the Aran Islands in 1914, and returned regularly until the 1960s. He was exhilarated by the weather of the islands and the challenges painting the communities en plein air produced. Rather than paint an idealised version of the Aran Islands, Keating’s work sought to express the reality and difficulties of life for the inhabitants. 



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  • Colin Middleton, The Markets, Belfast, 1941. Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Colin Middleton produced some of the most evocative paintings of his native Belfast in the 1940s. The works have a lovely dry and stippled surface and show a keen sense for structure and pattern which owed much to his work as a textile designer. There is an eerie quiet to the present work, with a solitary figure walking near the left edge, which may correspond to the fact Belfast became a target for bombing in the 1941 during the Second World War. 



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  • Rita Duffy, Belfast Mothers, 1984. Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    Rita Duffy is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary figurative painters. Her work is strongly autobiographical and draws heavily on her experiences growing up during the Troubles in Belfast, the daughter of a Northern father and Southern father. Belfast Mothers is from 1984 and is a distillation of several memories as a school girl in the 1970s, depicting mothers as matriarchs who shield their children with large protective arms.



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  • John Doherty, Prescriptions Accurately Prepared.
    Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Although photo-realist, John Doherty’s paintings retain a painterly focus in compositional structure, a textured surface and use of colour. His scrutiny of objects is intense, evident in the present work and the array of pharmaceutical objects seen in the window of this tired shop front. The artist trained as an architect and has a keen interest in buildings with distinct architectural features, particularly those in a state of disrepair. This pharmacy in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, still stands today but now lies empty with broken glass windows.



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  • Melita Denaro, I Saw the Danger and Still I Passed Along the Enchanted Way, 2016. Estimate £7,000–10,000.
    Melita Denaro’s landscapes concentrate solely on the Isle of Doagh, a dramatic peninsula located on the north coast of Ireland, which she visits each year. Painting in the open air, she translates her experiences of this environment into intense, atmospheric paintings which she later works into larger canvases from the sanctuary of her studio. Her paintings reveal a singular commitment which has resulted in a highly charged body of work of this wild Atlantic coastline. 



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  • Elizabeth Magill, Clonmany, 2002. Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Clonmany is located in Co. Donegal. The present painting has a dream-like quality that is typical of the artist’s approach to landscape, which in her later work verged further into the realm of the imaginary. Cool tones and subtle colour modulations, with soft pinks depicting clouds in the sky as the day draws to a close, creates a heightened sense of atmosphere in this large-scale canvas. 



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  • Irish School, early 19th Century, A View of Dublin Bay from Killiney Hill, circa 1830. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    This is a rare early view of Dublin Bay from c.1830. The artist has taken his view point from Killiney Hill, and the quarry in the foreground is where the granite was hewn to build the two piers for Dun Laoghaire harbour, visible in the near distance. Beyond that with the lighthouse on the end is the East Wall, built in the late 18th century. While a full attribution remains elusive, the style recalls the work of one of Ireland’s leading 19th century landscape painters, George Petrie, P.R.H.A (1790-1866).



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