Irish Art sale in London on 11 September 2018 will be distinguished by a major single-owner sequence, Property from the Joseph and Brenda Calihan Collection. In 16 paintings, the Calihan Collection represents a superb distillation of Irish art across a hundred-year period, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Led by Jack B. Yeats timeless and romantic Sunday Evening in September, the group is characterised by the exemplary and individual qualities of each work. Acquired by the Calihans in the 1990s, the paintings are estimated to bring a combined total in the region of £1.4 million (1.6 million).
Charlie Minter, Head of Irish Art, Sothebys, said: Rarely does one come across a collection that has been put together with such clear thought and such a discerning eye. It is an exceptional achievement, testament to the Calihans guiding principle to seek out superior examples by Irelands key artists. There is a rich narrative to the collection, and, in the conversations that emerge between the paintings, these works offer a wonderful insight into the story of Irish art.
Arabella Bishop, Head of Sothebys Ireland, said: Having handled many of these exceptional paintings in the 1990s, we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to present them again to a new generation of collectors. This year marks our 40th anniversary in Dublin, and we feel privileged to be commemorating that special moment in our history with an exhibition of works celebrating the very best of Irish art.
Maggy Williams, Agent to Joseph and Brenda Calihan, commented: I first met Joe and Brenda Calihan in Dublin in 1992, and we were to spend about eight years building the collection. What had begun with a Paul Henry gradually grew to a very carefully selected representation of Irish painting across two centuries. Once we decided to buy a picture, we rarely missed it. I like to think that these sixteen paintings fulfil the vision that Brenda and Joe had for the Calihan Collection, and for the time that they have been in our care, these pictures have been very special to us on so many different levels.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COLLECTION
Jack B. Yeats, Sunday Evening in September, oil on board, 1949
Estimate £300,000-500,000 / 339,000-565,000
Jack B. Yeats Sunday Evening in September shows a young couple taking a stroll through St Stephen's Green during the twilight hour. The graceful form of the girl is the pivot of the composition and her iridescent features distinguish her from the other figures who have also gathered on the green. By her side, a man walks proudly, clasping his jacket. This is a picture of romance, of carefree evenings and an ode to the city. It possesses a timelessness too, which was an important theme that ran through much of Yeats' oeuvre. The harmonious use of green-blue and yellow pigments heightens the distinctive atmosphere of twilight, of the 'dissolving hour between the sunset and the night'. The overall effect reveals Yeats at his most evocative, combining universal themes with vigorous handling of paint and bold colour. A tour de force, the painting exemplifies the very best qualities of the artists celebrated late career. Formerly in the renowned Vickerman Collection, it was sold at Sotheby's in 1991 alongside the artists The Wild Ones (which still holds the auction record for a work by Yeats).
Jack B. Yeats, The Circus, oil on canvas, 1921 Estimate £200,000-300,000 / 226,000-339,000
As a lover of unique characters, bawdy crowds and entertainment, the circus was a natural draw for Yeats. As a young boy it caught his imagination when attending the circuses that toured the west of Ireland. In London in the mid-1880s, Yeats regularly watched the Buffalo Bill Cody extravangas that were staged at Olympia, around the corner from where the Yeats family were living. In diaries from the period, Yeats began his first horse drawings inspired by the show, which were, as his father John Butler Yeats wrote, 'ramping roaring rearing'. Such imagery was developed in his Broadsides and later the circus theme was to recur regularly in his work. For Yeats, the circus acted as a metaphor for life, with its twin threads of comedy and tragedy, escape and travail. In The Circus, performers balance precariously upon a horse as it canters around the circus ring. The drama of the moment is heightened by the use of lighting the figures and the horse lit up against the darker background to create a highly arresting image. In the crowd, faces are also picked out by the artist, not just men in flatcaps but children and women, and in the upper corner the band can be seen playing to accompany the performance. Excitement and danger, adored by Yeats, abound. Painted in the early 1920s, the composition is rendered in the bold, figurative manner that later gave way to the full blown expressionism of his late career.
Richard Thomas Moynan, Ball in the Cap, oil on canvas, 1893 Estimate £100,000-150,000 / 113,000-170,000
Richard Thomas Moynan belonged to a group of artists, including Walter Osborne, Frank O'Meara, Roderic O'Conor and John Lavery, who travelled to France in the 1880s and embraced a new naturalist style of painting which was to mark a distinct shift in approaches to painting in Ireland and future generations. They admired in particular the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage, considered the pioneer of naturalism in France with his depictions of rural life, particularly children, using broad brushwork and a cool, tonal palette. Returning to Ireland from Paris, Moynan turned his attention to rural village life, and made a series of paintings in the early 1890s of mischievous, barefoot children at play which proved especially popular. In Ball in the Cap, a group of ragged looking boys are playing a game in a quiet village street. The attention to light is particularly effective as the shadows cast by the setting sun fall across the street, in contrast to the building bathed in the last of the golden light. It is a richly evocative work that not only offers a nostalgic look at youth and of time past, but makes a poignant comment on the hardships of indigent children in rural Ireland in the late 19th century.
John Luke, Pax, tempera and oil on board, 1943 Estimate £80,000-120,000 / 90,500-136,000
Pax is the first of 12 small, jewel-like oil and tempera paintings John Luke made at Knappagh Farm, Co Armagh, where he was living between 1943 and 1948. Critics have agreed that this was the most productive and significant period of Lukes entire career and his most cohesive body of work. James White, the Dublin art critic, and later Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, who travelled to Armagh to see these paintings, claimed they had the innocence of a visionary and directly compared the artist to the painters of the Italian Renaissance. Executed in the methodically traditional tempera technique, the painting is an exquisite miniature-like work of arresting beauty and originality. The appearance on the market of Pax follows the sale of Northern Rhythm a painting from the same series at Sothebys Irish Art sale in 2017, where it sold for £187,500.
Gerard Dillon, Lobster Pots, oil on board, Estimate £60,000-80,000 / 68,000-90,500
Lobster Pots was painted in 1951, the year Gerard Dillon had invited fellow artists George Campbell and James MacIntyre to stay with him on Inishlacken, an island off Roundstone. He had been given the use of a cottage for 12 months as part payment for a painting. In this work, painted with characteristic naivety and imbued with charm and innocence, Dillon shows two figures bartering with a fisherman, possibly for the loan of lobster pots. Half-hidden behind his friend and staring directly out of the picture is Dillon himself. His days spent in Connemara represented an idyllic time, leading the artist to produce some of his best and most loved works.
Beatrice Campbell, Lady Glenavy, The Intruder, oil on canvas, 1931 Estimate £40,000-60,000 / 45,100-68,000
One of the artist's greatest and most ambitious works, frequently exhibited, most recently on loan at the National Gallery of Ireland, The Intruder exemplifies the unique painterly style of Lady Glenavy. A mysterious and poetic vision of fantastical figures in an otherworldy landscape, and undeniably entrancing, the painting formed the centrepiece of her first solo exhibition in Dublin in 1935, which was enthusiastically received by the critics. In her autobiography, she wrote: I painted a picture which I liked very much, called The Intruder. It portrayed an imaginary woodland scene with people having a picnic; a female centaur has galloped through the wood and beckons to a young man in the picnic party who is leaping madly forward to follow her... My meaning, if any, had been that the unknown was more interesting than the known. Lady Glenavy was born into an enterprising and artistic family, and was herself an artist of prodigious talent: painter, stained glass artist and sculptor, who mixed with many of the key figures in the art scene of the time. William Orpen recalled in his autobiography, 'there was one [young artist in Ireland] who stood out alone Beatrice Elvery, a young lady with many gifts, much temperament, and great ability. Her only fault was that the transmission of her thoughts from her brain to paper or canvas, clay or stained glass, became so easy to her that all was said in a few hours.'2 Glenavy had studied under Orpen on his visits to the Metropolitan School of Art and modelled for several of his portraits. In 1910 she went to London and spent a year at the Slade School of Fine Art; after the First World War, she returned to Ireland and fully established her artistic career as a painter.
Daniel Maclise, The Ballad Seller, oil on canvas, 1858, Estimate £30,000-50,000 / 33,900-56,500
Daniel Maclise was undoubtedly Ireland's greatest historical painter and one of the most renowned painters of Victorian London. Having moved to the city in 1827, he secured his reputation with his commissions for the new Palace of Westminster, firstly with Spirit of Chivalry (1847) and Spirit of Justice (1849) and then with The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher and The Death of Nelson (1865). In Ireland, nowhere is his prowess more evident than in his monumental The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife (1854), currently hanging resplendent in the refurbished National Gallery of Ireland. In The Ballad Seller, Maclise shows his ability to work as effectively on a smaller scale without the historical drama, although with the same attention to bold colour. Ballads were a popular form of sheet music that flourished in Britain and Ireland and it was a common sight in the 19th century to find men and women travelling the country selling ballads. The title of the ballad in this work is The Sailor's Wife. Sailors were a prominent subject within the ballad tradition, taking on a heroic status, particularly after the Napoleonic wars, as patriotic defenders of Britain. The title might also be a reference to the fact this lady is the widow of a sailor, left to look after herself and her young child. She stands under a lilac bush by a garden gate, upon which a robin sits playing further upon the musical theme. She appears to be singing the ballad as she arrives, as well as trying her luck at selling some apples and drink.