Cutty Sark, the famous British Windjammer, oil on paper laid on board by James Dixon, €36,000 (£30,600) at Adam’s.

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James Dixon (1921-2006) - a native of Tory Island, the isolated spit of land off the north-west coast of Ireland - worked for most of his life as a crofter and a fisherman, beginning to paint only during the 1950s.

Like Wallis (1855-1942), he was largely self-taught and preferred to use boat paint on pieces of board or paper rather than more conventional oil paint on canvas.

Although ‘discovered’ in the early 1960s by the English artist Derek Hill (1916-2000), he continued to paint with brushes he made himself from donkey hair.

In 1999 and 2000, his work was exhibited at both the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and Tate St Ives in the show Two Artists: James Dixon and Alfred Wallis.

Sail price to savour

The picture that led Adam’s sale titled Irish Vernacular was relatively large at 22in x 2ft 6in (55 x 76cm) and showed the famous tea clipper Cutty Sark set against an expanse of blue sea.

Akin to many Dixon works, it was accompanied by a full description (to an unpainted area in the bottom right-hand corner of the composition) reading Cutty Sark, the famous British Windjammer by James Dixon.

Although the date is currently obscured beneath the frame, it was probably painted in the late 1960s. It was among the works exhibited by London gallery Desmond Fine Art in July 1990 at a show titled Contemporary Artists from Ireland.

Estimated at €8000-12,000 at the auction on April 16, it brought €36,000 (£30,600), seemingly the highest price for Dixon at auction. The previous high was the £9500 for a picture of the same size titled The First Fleetwood Trawler that Ever Fish Back of Tory Island and dated 18 01 1968.

It sold at Cheffins in Cambridge in February 2020, having been acquired by the vendor at one of Dixon’s first commercial exhibitions at the Portal Gallery in London in 1968.

Textbook oil


West End Village, oil on paper laid on board by James Dixon, £6000 at Cotswold Auction Company.

Works by Dixon do not appear too often but another textbook oil on paper laid on board was sold by the Cotswold Auction Company (24% buyer’s premium) in Cirencester on March 19.

West End Village, also measuring 22in x 2ft 6in (55 x 76cm) was signed and dated September 24, 1969. The scene of housing and the harbour shows the fishing boat Ave Maria unloading its catch at the pier.

Estimated at £3000-5000, it took £6000.