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Irish Art Masterpieces For Sale at Sotheby's London in May
Roderic O’Conor, Rocks and Foam, St Guenole, est. £300,000-500,000/€325,000-545,000. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby´s.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s forthcoming sale of Irish Art, to be held in London on Thursday, 7 May 2009, will showcase works by acclaimed Irish artists including Sir William Orpen, Roderic O’Conor, William Scott, J. B. Yeats and George Barret. 70 works from the sale are to be part of an extensive touring exhibition which starts at Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, on 10-11 April, and then continues in Belfast between 15-16 April and Dublin from 18-21 April.

Grant Ford, Head of Irish Art at Sotheby’s, commenting on the sale said: ‘We are thrilled to be offering such high quality works by Irish artists of international renown, spanning from the 18th century to the present day. The sale includes many of the most reputed names in Irish Art and in particular we are delighted to offer several exceptional works by Sir William Orpen, one painted at Howth and another overlooking Portmarnock Strand.’

Roderic O’Conor was one of the only Irish artists to fully immerse himself in the cultural influences of France, and Rocks and Foam, St Guenole (shown above, lot 20, est. £300,000-500,000/€325,000-545,000) encapsulates all that he learnt from the Post-Impressionists. This work, previously held in a private collection, reflects the influence of the artist’s close friend Paul Gauguin in its remarkably bold and vibrant colours that catch the eye and pull the viewer into the picture. O’Conor’s fresh approach to painting, made evident in the raw energy of this work, highlights his position as a truly modern artist and reaffirms his avant-garde credentials.

The Irish Sale will include several paintings by Sir William Orpen R.A., R.H.A. including On the Cliff, Dublin Bay, Morning (lot 14 est. £250,000-350,000/€271,000-379,000). The painting was executed while he was staying with his family at Howth, an area that is the subject of a number of his most important canvasses. These pictures stand as an evocation of ‘never-to-be-forgotten’ summer days and capture intimate moments of family life so different to the public portraits for which the artist is best known. The picture shows Orpen’s wife Grace looking out to the Irish Sea and the rising sun. Orpen’s goal was naturalistic – the morning sun breaking through the clouds onto the figure of Grace was the light and atmosphere of Dublin Bay, not that of a studio-confected arcadia.

Orpen’s portrait of Noll; Son of Oliver St John Gogarty (lot 28 est. £250,000-350,000/€271,000-379,000), has been on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland for six years. Gogarty, the famous poet, author and physician, was a close friend of Orpen, and this picture is one of the few portraits of children that Orpen painted outside of his own family. It shows a fusion of the influences of the great traditions of 18th century portraiture of the likes of Reynolds and Gainsborough, while the gesture and location overlooking Portmarnock Strand are characteristically Irish.

Two paintings included in the sale that capture the romance and beauty of the west of Ireland are Paul Henry’s A Connemara Village (lot 25 est. £200,000-300,000/€217,000-325,000) and Jack B. Yeats’ The Top of the Tide (lot 44 est. £150,000-250,000/€163,000-271,000). A Connemara Village, which hung in the National Gallery of Ireland from 2002-2008 on temporary loan, is one of Henry’s most recognisable images and has been in the same family for decades; inspired by the lyrical landscape, this vibrant picture shows the artist at the height of his powers.

Jack B. Yeats’ The Top of the Tide has never been on the market before and was executed at the climax of his career. Painted in his favourite landscape the exuberant impasto and assertive strokes boldly define the silhouettes of the principal characters capturing an intimate moment between two friends. Set against this animated backdrop the painting strikes a particularly optimistic note and symbolises the artist’s hope and belief in a brighter future.

Patrick Swift’sThrough a Window (Positano) (lot 49) comes straight from the artist’s family and is estimated at £25,000-35,000/€27,100-37,900. The influence of Lucian Freud, who shared the artist’s Dublin studio in the early 1950s, is evident; Swift’s friendship with the older artist was important in the development of his highly stylised and detailed handling exemplified in the quirky precision of this painting.

An iconic and large scale painting by William Scott, Blue Still Life with Brown Glass (lot 50) is estimated at £300,000-500,000/€325,000-545,000. Scott was one of the first European artists to experience the latest developments in American avant garde painting at first hand and was personally introduced to key figures in the field such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, with the latter becoming a close friend.

Another great master featured in the sale is Ireland’s most eminent 18th century artist George Barret R.A. His intimate painting, An Irish Landscape Inspired by the Dargle Valley (lot 4 est. £220,000-280,000/€238,000-303,000), is both ambitious in its scale and composition. With its unmistakably romantic grandeur and vigorous dexterity the picture is emblematic of the typically accomplished paintings that epitomise the artist’s early work.

The sale will also feature a very strong selection of works by Contemporary artists such as Barrie Cooke, Louis le Brocquy, Basil Blackshaw, John Doherty, John Shinnors and Sean Scully.

Scully’s Wall of Light series is his most important body of work to date and was inspired by the unique effects of light experienced on a visit to the Mayan ruins at Yucatan, Mexico. Small Chelsea Wall of Light #7 (lot 71 est. £100,000-150,000/€109,000-163,000) refers more specifically to Chelsea and his new studio in that area of New York which he acquired in 1999.

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