EIRE: WITH the traditional Irish sales due in London next month, many an eye was on the Dublin sale held by James Adams (15 per cent buyer’s premium) on March 28 to see how pictures were selling in their native land.
And with all the major works among the 150 offered getting away and making their contribution to the sale’s £750,000 the market looked reassuringly strong.
Expert-in-charge at the sale, James O’Halloran remarked on a sale atmosphere on a par with the “buzz” felt a year ago.
Unsurprisngly the biggest buzz was triggered by Liffey Quaysides, by Patrick Collins HRHA (1911-1994).
The 3ft 8in by 4ft 3in (1.07 x 1.29m) oil on board of Dublin’s river and Halfpenny Bridge was painted in 1957 and never before had Collins attempted anything on quite so large a scale or of such complex composition or colour.
Awarded the Guggenheim National Section Award for Ireland in 1958 this seminal work was rhapsodised over in the Irish Times’ Review of 1959 as “like something remembered from a great distance.... The scene remains, but it has been blurred and altered by time, and bereft of the specific details that would have slipped out of his grasp”.
Consigned by a private Dublin collector who had purchased the
picture from Adams in 1995 for IR£12,000, the importance of this signed and dated work had increased in the minds of some in the last six years and was now deemed significant enough for the National Gallery of Ireland to bid for.
Against a private bidder who dropped out at IR£75,000 (£57,690) the gallery secured the work for the benefit of the nation at IR£80,000 (£61,540) – double the low estimate.
The escalating prices for works by Dublin-born Louis le Brocquy (b.1916) were reported ealier in the (No. 1482, March 31, 2001), and the trend continued at Adams when Head at Birth went above estimate. In 1963, le Brocquy embarked upon a series of images based upon the human head where those immortalised on canvas included such luminaries as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.
Belonging to the first phase of this period, Head at Birth (1971) an oil on canvas 2ft 3in by 2ft 3in (69.5 x 69.5cm) depicting the human head as it is being eased into the world by careful hands – and suitably enough consigned to the sale by a Dublin gynaecologist – was deemed a rather grotesque image by some.
However, while clearly not as
marketable as le Brocquy’s early
tinker canvases, Head at Birth still took IR£32,000 (£24,615) – four times the bottom estimate.
Like the aforementioned Welsh painter Kyffin Williams, Paul Henry RHA, RUA (1876-1958) favoured rather bleak landscapes in muted colours and Western Landscape consigned by a private Dublin vendor was typical of Henry’s oeuvre.
In December 2000 Adams took IR£95,000 (£80,510) for The Milk Cart, an oil laid down on canvas board from c.1929 (see Antiques Trade Gazette No. 1473, February 3, 2001).
However, Western Landscape, an oil on canvas, 21in by 2ft 1in (53 x 64cm), was not such an exuberant work containing no figures or cottages and this was reflect in the mid-estimate bid it achieved – IR£34,000 (£26,155).
Exchange rate: £1 = IR£1.30