SPRING – A TIME OF AWAKENING
FOR COLLECTORS AT WHYTE’S
With brighter evenings ahead Whyte’s first sale this spring complements the positive mood of the season with a collection of fresh and affordable works from a diverse range of collectors. On the back of the record breaking sale of Paul Henry’s Fisherman in a Currach (€145,000) in November, the highest price paid for an artwork in Ireland in 2010, Whyte’s is delighted to commence 2011 with a very individual collection of superb works from the estate of a prominent Waterford businessman as well several high profile individual lots of major historic and artistic merit.
Started in the 1950s the Waterford collection [Lots 1-40] includes purchases from high profile and respected artistic touchstones such as the Victor Waddington Gallery, Leo Smith (The Dawson Gallery), David Hendriks (The Hendriks Gallery) and John and Patrick Taylor at The Taylor Galleries. This thoughtfully assembled collection displays all the characteristics of a tasteful and educated eye. Encompassing works by Jack Butler Yeats, Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, Gerard Dillon, Noreen Rice, George Campbell, Arthur Armstrong, Colin Middleton, Daniel O’Neill, Tony O’Malley and others the collection traces a seamless weave of visual art from the 1940s to 1980s. Ranging in estimate from €400 to €8,000, this collection offers value for money works by some of the greatest 20th century Irish artists.
The rest of the auction, which totals 290 lots, offers works dating from the 17th century to present day. Of the older variety several works in particular stand out. The first is a landmark oil by Cork artist James Brenan RHA entitled The Finishing Touch, [Lot 107, estimated at €15,000-20,000] exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1876, the year it was painted. James Brenan was one of the foremost painters of genre and narrative works of his time in Ireland. In this work Brenan focuses his brush directly on the tragedy of poverty and emigration from rural Ireland which forced millions to leave in search of work abroad in the ‘New Worlds’. Hauntingly topical, this work portrays a poignant gathering of a family preparing to say their goodbyes not on a quayside but from within the heart of their home. Several artists, such as fellow Corkonian and protégé of Brenan’s Thomas Hovenden, immigrated to America where they excelled. The year Hovenden arrived, 1863, he was only one of over 150,000 County Cork immigrants who had arrived in Manhattan, more people than made up all of the city of Cork. Thus; this painted message by Brenan is not only testament to the artist’s skill but is of immense historic and national significance, particularly today. Coveted works by Brenan can be found in the permanent collection of The Crawford Gallery in Cork.
Another historically significant work in the form of a portrait can be found in Michael George Brennan’s Portrait of Laura Redden Searing in the Studio, 1867 [Lot 112, estimated at €15,000-20,000] The subject, a celebrated pioneer in the deaf community, was a famed poetess, writer and journalist from Maryland, USA who met the artist in Capri in the late 1860s. Theirs was a whirlwind romance that ended prematurely in a broken engagement. Their relationship is captured here in this evocative work which shows Redden as a sensual muse in the prime of her life. Other works of note from the period include an Irish Cottage Interior by Francis William Topham [Lot 110, estimate at €3,000-4,000] and On Coming Storm, 1832, possibly of Co. Wicklow, by James Arthur O’Connor [Lot 116 estimated at €8,000-10,000].
Of the contemporary artists, Robert Ballagh, “Ireland’s Andy Warhol” dominates with his sizeable – 2ft by 7ft – early oil entitled, Burning Monk, 1968 [Lot 53, estimated at €10,000-15,000]. Shown in the artist’s first ever exhibition at the Little Theatre, Brown Thomas in Dublin, this work represents a milestone in Ballagh’s artistic journey and is a testament to his enduring passion for politics. The significance of this work has already been proven being that the work formed part of the national collection in the Irish Museum of Modern Art for nearly ten years, where it was on loan from its current owner. A truly museum worthy piece, Burning Monk represents a sure-fire investment in a work of national importance by a contemporary artist. Other works by Ballagh in the sale include, Figure with an Ellsworth Kelly, 1972 [Lot 53, estimated at €3,000-4,000] and two oils of book covers for the 1980s ‘Joe’ books by Tony Hickey [Lots 55 & 56, estimated at €2,000-3,000 each].
Widely reported in the media already are Lots 85 & 86 by Patrick Hennessy, a Self-Portrait, 1936 [Estimated at €2,500-3,500] and a commission Portrait of Liv Hempel 1939 [Estimated at €2,000-3,000]. With the sitter Liv Hempel still alive in the United States, this visual record, coupled with Ms Hempel’s reports on her extraordinary life in Dublin as the daughter of Hitler’s envoy to Ireland, make this work of twofold importance. Significantly, the Self-Portrait is perhaps the earliest such example ever offered at auction. Hennessy’s life partner, Henry Robertson Craig is represented in the sale also with An Irish Summer, Lower Lakes Glendalough [Lot 169, estimated at €4,000-6,000]. The prestigious Hennessy Craig Scholarship at the Royal Hibernian Academy is funded by a generous endowment from this distinguished artistic pair.
Other contemporary works within the sale include photographs from the late 1960s, early 1970s by John Minihan [Lots 152-156, estimated at €1,500-2,000 each]. Time capsules of the town of Athy, Co. Kildare these powerful images illustrate a commanding sense of place and time. Gerard Bryne’s Untitled, 1999 [Lot 52, €3,500-€4,500] takes the medium of photography in a different direction with his austere readings of interior corporate spaces, while Hughie O’Donoghue’s mixed media work, Arise And Go, 2004/6, [Lot 51, estimated at €8,000-10,000] tackles memory and loss.
Irish female artists are strongly represented in this auction with works by Evie Hone, Noreen Rice, Mainie Jellett, Sarah Purser, Mildred Anne Butler, Hilda Roberts, the Hamilton sisters and contemporaries, Cecily Brennan, Pauline Bewick, Veronica Bolay, Sandra Bell and Susan Webb among others. Other prominent names include, Erskine Nicol, Sir John Lavery, Charles Lamb, Seán Keating, George Russell (AE), Daniel O’Neill, Sarah Purser, Robert Taylor Carson, Louis le Brocquy, Basil Rákóczi, Nevill Johnson, Neil Shawcross, William Crozier, Kenneth Webb, Brian Bourke and Michael Mulcahy among many others.
Viewing is at the RDS Clyde Rooms, Anglesea Road, Ballsbridge. Viewing is from Saturday to Monday 12-14 March, 10am to 6pm daily. The auction will take place in the same venue on Monday 14 March at 6pm, and will be broadcast live at www.whytes.ie A superbly produced and expertly researched catalogue is available by post (€5 to Ireland and Britain) or download free at http://www.whytes.ie