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Christie's Rich Array of Irish and Spoting Art in May 2009
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1898-1959) Study of five horses heads (estimate: £30,000-50,000). Christie's Images Ltd.

LONDON.- A rich array of Irish and Sporting Art will be offered at Christie’s London on Friday, 8 May 2009, during a week of three Irish themed sales which celebrate the beauty and rich heritage of Irish art and antiques. This fresh new sale format provides the opportunity for collectors and institutions to acquire captivating works, from the 18th through to the 20th century, by the leading names in two genres that greatly compliment each other and which illustrate a natural cross over of the interests and passions of many. Highlights, many of which are from private collections and have not been offered at auction for many years, will be on public exhibition at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin on 23 and 24 April 2009.

Leading the sale and epitomising Ireland’s rich artistic and cultural heritage, is an exemplary portrait of Count John McCormack, 1923, by Sir William Orpen RA, R.H.A (1878-1931) (estimate: £400,000-600,000).

The many Irish Art highlights range from an Extensive Irish River Landscape dating to the 18th century, by George Barret R.A. (1728-1784) (estimate: £120,000-180,000), a second portrait by Sir William Orpen, of Lewis R. Tomalin, 1909 (estimate: £150,000-250,000) and a previously unknown set of nine full-scale preparatory studies by Harry Clarke, R.H.A. (1889-1931) illustrating John Millington Synge’s poem Queens, 1917 (estimate: £110,000-150,000), through to Study of William Shakespeare by Louis le Brocquy H.R.H.A. (b.1916) from the Collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince, 1982 (estimate: £100,000-150,000). Amongst the Sporting Art key works include Buffalo and lion before the fight by Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1936) (estimate: £100,000-150,000); a charming early painting by Sawrey Gilpin, R.A. (1733-1807) Colonel Thornton’s Jupiter, by Eclipse out of a mare by Tartar…at Thornville Royal, 1792 (estimate: £80,000-120,000); a Portrait of Richard James Streatfeild , 1881 (estimate: £50,000-70,000) and a classic Study of five horses heads by Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1898-1959) (estimate: £30,000-50,000).

Bernard Williams, International Director of Irish Art at Christie’s: “This year's auction of Irish and Sporting art is part of an inspiring week at Christie’s in London, during which we will also present two Irish-themed collection sales, including the remarkable collections of Desmond FitzGerald, 'GLIN CASTLE - A Knight in Ireland', and the collection of Vincent Ferguson. Featuring an impressive and diverse selection of works representing 250 years of artistic excellence, we very much look forward to exhibiting highlights in Dublin before the auction in London on 8 May.

The emphasis in each of the week’s sales is on works of excellent quality and fresh provenance. We look forward to presenting these works to the international market place, which continues to show an ever-increasing appetite for Irish art.”

Dubliner George Barret was one of the most outstanding landscape painters of his generation. He moved to London around 1763 and exhibited to great acclaim at the Society of Artists in 1764; his clients included the upper echelons of British Society. Barret was later appointed one of the founder members of the Royal Academy in 1768. This extensive wooded river landscape with figures in the foreground (estimate: £120,000-180,000), is thought to date to his early career whilst he was still working in Ireland. It provides insight into the artist’s transition between his Rococo Italianate landscape of 1755 (National Gallery of Ireland) and his works from the 1760s such as those of Powerscourt Demesne.

Sir William Orpen’s 1909 Portrait of Lewis R. Tomalin (estimate: £150,000-250,000), comes completely fresh to the market, having been commissioned by the sitter and then passed by descent to the present owner. A work of excellent provenance, this portrait, as with that of Count John McCormack, was exhibited in many important shows and detailed in innumerable books including Sir William Orpen, Art and Man, 1932, by P.G. Konody and S. Dark. Tomalin was an enlightened manufacturer and retailer of woolen garments such as Jaeger clothing; which was believed to absorb body toxins that, according to social theorist Max Nordau, contributed to the degeneration of Western society. On this basis, Tomalin was held in high esteem by social progressives of the period such as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. This portrait captures not only the sitter, but the early influences and consideration of the young Orpen, who clearly refers to the Dutch masters throughout the interior, which he is noted to have changed further to suggestions he posed by letter to Tomalin.

Harry Clarke’s previously unrecorded set of nine full-scale preparatory studies by Harry Clarke, R.H.A (1889-1931) illustrating John Millington Synge’s poem Queens, 1917 (estimate: £110,000-150,000), are a very important discovery. The enchanting depictions of legendary, iconic women from the past are presented in an ethereal almost mythical manner conjuring the beauty, elegance and drama of fairytales.

Early 20th century Irish landscape highlights, include The Sands, 1917, by Sir John Lavery, R.H.A., R.A., R.S.A. (1856-1941) (estimate: £50,000-80,000) which provides quiet, peaceful freshness through the fluid brushstrokes and balanced composition of expansive sand and sea, edged with lush greens depicting the coast of St Jean de Luz. Similarly evocative and contemplative is Irish landscape Sunshine in Kerry, circa 1939-40, by Paul Henry, R.H.A. (1876-1958) which is offered for sale for the first time in over half a century (estimate: £100,000-150,000). Two contrasting works are featured by Jack B. Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957) one of the most admired, collected and iconic artists of the 20th Century. The naturalistic Irish beauty of Fuschia Hedge, Roundstone, 1916 (estimate: £60,000-80,000) and the dynamic palette and brushstrokes found in his later, more boisterous work The Fool’s Chase, 1942 (estimate: £60,000-80,000), which depicts a clown with a banjo being pursued by a man in fancy dress.

Amongst the mid to late 20th century Irish highlights are nine superb portraits by Louis Le Brocquy featuring Study towards an image of Samuel Beckett No. 433, 1979 (estimate: £120,000-180,000) from the Collection of Caral G. Lebworth, who acquired the works directly from Galerie Jeanne Bucher in Paris. Study towards an image of William Shakespeare, 1982 illustrated right is offered from the extraordinary Collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince, Chicago Illinois; who were well known philanthropists, art collectors and patrons in the cultural and artistic circles of Chicago in the second half of the 20th century.

The potentially tense, captivating nature of Sporting Art is exemplified by Buffalo and lion before the fight by Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1936) (estimate: £100,000-150,000). Having first trained under the animal painter Meyerheim in Berlin, Kuhnert mastered the art of rendering animal fur, hair and muscles. His talents led his teachers to advise that he devote himself entirely to animal painting, which he did; travelling extensively in Africa and the East and resulting is a career devoted to the depiction of exotic wildlife. Millais once stated that ‘there is no finer exponent of African mammals than Wilhelm Kuhnert….he got inside the very skin of African life.’

Offered fresh to the market, Colonel Thornton’s Jupiter, by Eclipse out of a mare by Tartar…at Thornville Royal, 1792, by Sawrey Gilpin, R.A. (1733-1807) is a charming early painting which is one of the artist’s grandest and most imposing works (estimate: £80,000-120,000). Colonel Thornton, who commissioned this painting, was a keen patron of contemporary British sporting artists. Gilpin’s other notable patrons included the Duke of Bedford, Sir George Beaumont and Samuel Whitbread. Further stunning studies of horses includes the handsome black stallion Solidier Boy in a stable, 1848 by John Ferneley Snr. (estimate: £20,000-30,000) and a wonderfully dynamic, painterly Study of five horses heads by Sir Alfred James Munnings (estimate: £30,000-50,000).

Munning’s work illustrates, in fluid brushwork, the easy grace and elegance of a finely bred horse which are captured with the analytical eye of a portraitist whilst the experimentation with the fall of afternoon light reflects the artist’s practice of painting en plein air. Elsewhere, more traditional, crisply executed works include a pair of Hunting Scenes by John Frederick Herring, Jnr. (1815-1907) (estimate: £20,000-30,000) and the atmospheric action captured in Portrait of Richard James Streatfeild, Esquire on his retirement from the Mastership of the South Down Foxhounds, 1881 by George Earl (1824-1908) (estimate: £50,000-70,000). Earl’s monumental painting was executed at the height of his career and displays his ability in capturing movement and naturalism in both figures and animals, often on a very large scale.

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