THE strength of the Irish picture market will be tested in May when Sotheby’s and Christie’s hold their annual Irish sales in London. Recent sales in Ireland indicate things look promising, and that interest is still strong Stateside was confirmed at Dennis Auction Service (10% buyer’s premium) in Stewartsville, New Jersey on March 9 sale when this early work, right, by Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957) came up for auction.
The Coach Driver, a 2ft 41/2in by 211/4in (72 x 54cm) tempera of a red-jacketed crop-clutching gent, was painted in 1893 before Yeats began experimenting with colour and paint application. The New Jersey vendor was a close friend of the Yeats family and had bought the picture directly from Jack back in 1915. It had remained untouched, under glass and in its original frame ever since.
Sean Crean, an Irish art dealer with galleries in New York and Roscommon, contacted Dennis Auction Service after seeing an advertisement for an Erskine Nicholl oil and it was then that the auctioneers mentioned they had another Irish picture which he might find of interest.
“As soon as I saw the picture I knew it was something special,” said Mr Crean, “but the auctioneers didn’t seem aware of its importance. They had even catalogued it as a pastel.”
The bidding opened at $10,000 and quickly rose to $140,000 with a last-minute bid from Mr Crean taking it to the winning $150,000 (£110,000).
“If I can hang onto something I like I do, but the bank wouldn’t let me keep this one,” said Mr Crean. So after 87 years of single ownership, The Coach Driver will come back on the open market when it is to be sold in Canada’s first-ever Irish sale at Waddington’s (15% buyer’s premium) in Toronto on May 23 carrying an estimate of Can$300,000-500,000 (approx. £140,000-230,000).
Exchange rate: £1 =$1.37