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Rediscovered masterpieces to be exhibited in Belfast and Dublin ahead of Sotheby's sale
Red Rocks and Sea by Roderic O'Conor is a rediscovered work by the artist, having disappeared into private hands following its purchase at a London exhibition in 1961. Estimated at £200,000-300,000 (€235,000-353,000), Red Rocks and Sea has had only two owners since it left the artist's studio and Sotheby's sale marks its first appearance at auction. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s will be staging in Belfast and Dublin an exhibition of Irish artworks from its forthcoming auction of British and Irish Art. The exhibitions will take place in Belfast on Wednesday, 8 and Thursday, 9 May 2013 and in Dublin on Saturday, 11 and Sunday, 12 May 2013, and feature Ireland’s favourite artists**. The group will be spearheaded by a rediscovered seascape by Roderic O’Conor, a painting by Paul Henry last seen in 1973, John Butler Yeats’ tender portrait of his son, the poet William B. Yeats, an important tapestry by Louis le Brocquy, and a seminal work by Basil Blackshaw which reflects the artist’s lifelong engagement with the rural landscape. The 30 artworks, estimated to bring in the region of €1 million, will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s in London on 23 May 2013.

Red Rocks and Sea by Roderic O'Conor is a rediscovered work by the artist, having disappeared into private hands following its purchase at a London exhibition in 1961. Executed in 1898, the painting is imbued with the same passion for the untamed forces of nature as the other works in the extended series of seascapes that O'Conor produced in the closing years of the nineteenth century. It is one of the largest, most fully resolved and impressive of the series. The fiery colours of the rocks are set off against a violet, green and white sea, with a band of grey and pale green sky above. Red Rocks and Sea was painted at Le Pouldu, the coastal outpost of the Pont-Aven School of artists, on the western tip of the province of Brittany, an area called Finistère (literally 'End of the Earth'). O'Conor broke new ground with his group of seascapes from the late 1890s with their expressive language of colour, indebted in some part to Paul Gauguin, who he had befriended in Pont-Aven earlier that decade. He also sought to energise the entire paint surface in an attempt to find an equivalent to the primal clash of the elements. His handling of the oil medium acquired a great fluency in this period, mixing the use of heavily charged brushes and palette knives with thinly stained areas applied with a rag, as seen here. Estimated at £200,000-300,000 (€235,000-353,000), Red Rocks and Sea has had only two owners since it left the artist's studio and Sotheby's sale marks its first appearance at auction.

Paul Henry's Achill Woman is a major work by the artist to emerge on the market. Dating from circa 1912-15, it was last seen in 1973, in a monograph exhibition held at Trinity College in Dublin. The painting exudes those qualities in the Achill peasantry that so fascinated Henry. The Achill woman depicted is a lone figure, monumental in presence, who dominates the composition. The artist strikes a note of pathos with the woman's downcast eyes, weather- and time-worn face, and infuses the image with a sense of mankind's unequal contest with nature on the beautiful, but unforgiving island of Achill. With its carefully applied brushstokes, cool blue colour scheme, and emphasis on realism, Achill Woman is representative of Henry's output on the island. He found a profound beauty and poetic romance in the people of Achill, who inhabited a barren and rugged landscape. On his first trip there in the summer of 1910, he immediately felt a spiritual connection with the land and its inhabitants that proved so strong, he impulsively tore up his return ticket and tossed the fragments into the Atlantic. For the next seven years, Henry lived and worked on the isolated island, regarding it as a sort of Hibernian Arcadia. He did not expect his career to blossom in monetary terms during this time, but the quality of his work and the popularity of his images made Henry the most successful Irish artist of the 1920s and 1930s. Achill Woman, estimated at £70,000-100,000 (€82,500-118,000), spoke to the people of Ireland during the political and social upheaval of the early twentieth century. Its earthy beauty and touching simplicity, however, makes it timeless in its appeal.

John Butler Yeats’ tender and pensive portrait of his son, William B. Yeats was commissioned by John Quinn, the prolific American art collector and was later given to William Michael Murphy, the renowned Yeats family scholar, by Jeanne Robert Foster, Quinn’s close friend. Painted in 1907 and estimated at £40,000-60,000 (€47,000-70,500), it captures the poet in mid-motion, leaning forward in an engaging manner. The sitter’s eyes directly meet ours, yet with a hazy, distant look. The large shock of disheveled hair which falls over his brow evokes a poetic romanticism, and the image is imbued with a soft, spiritual quality. William was born in 1865, the oldest of J.B. Yeats’ children. With the publication of The Lake of Innisfree and his collection of poems, The Wind Among the Reeds, William established himself as a writer of lyrical and symbolist poems. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize, and his work remains one of the most important Irish contributions to the modernist movement in the twentieth century. Although J.B. Yeats is best remembered as the father of William and the artist Jack Butler Yeats, he was one of Ireland’s most important artists and a prominent figure in Anglo-Irish circles. Portrait of William Butler Yeats, alongside the artist’s portrait of Irish separatist John O’Leary, is considered a masterpiece in his oeuvre.

The portrait is one of six lots being offered for sale from The William M. Murphy Trust. The collection contains fascinating drawings and portraits by J.B. Yeats which capture the artist’s technique and creative process in every stage, from rapid sketches to finished portraits. A testament to the artist’s virtuosity and the close-knit friendships of William Murphy, the Yeats family, and Jeanne Robert Foster, the collection includes pencil portraits of Jeanne and several self-portraits, in pencil and oil. Jeanne, an American poet, journalist, social reformer and celebrated beauty, was a devoted friend to J.B. Yeats.

Woven at Aubusson Tabard Frères et Soeurs in an edition of 9, Allegory by Louis le Brocquy was conceived by the artist in 1950. He admitted stumbling into tapestry as a form of artistic expression by accident, and found the inherent challenges of the medium refreshing. Le Brocquy displayed an intuitive ability to translate painterly elements onto the flat surface of the woven cloth, and his achievements were influential in the rebirth of tapestry in the twentieth century. The present work is ambitious in both subject matter and scale, and marks a dramatic departure in terms of colour, mood and feeling from the artist's contemporary Grey Period paintings. By 1950, le Brocquy had begun to find pictorial form for the existential anxieties of the age with the use of allegorical symbols. In Allegory, the sun, moon, and the skein of wool all chronicle the passage of time, while the ethereal child speaks of the lost children of post-war Europe. His interpretation of the theme in tapestry form has become one of the key works upon which his international reputation now rests. It is estimated at £60,000-80,000 (€70,500-94,000).

First Tractor in Randalstown by Basil Blacksaw can be viewed as the culmination of the artist's lifelong engagement with the rural landscape. His formidable career has been defined by his response to the Irish countryside and the physical experience of living within it. In the present work, Blackshaw imbues the tractor with a worthy and meaningful resonance yet, at the same time, the subject retains a light-heartedness that is a central element in his oeuvre. He aimed to evoke a sensation in the viewer through his application of paint - the broad brushwork, the drips, the scrawled text - and the applied collage. The First Tractor in Randalstown, estimated at £100,000-150,000 (€118,000-177,000), can be considered a summary of the artist's achievements: although it focuses on a rural community in Northern Ireland, it demands a wider recognition and engagement beyond the boundaries that have defined Blackshaw's work.

**Belfast, Waterfront Hall, 2 Lanyon Place: 8 & 9 May, 10am – 5pm
**Dublin, 16 Molesworth Street: 11 May, 10am – 6pm; 12 May, 10am – 4pm

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May 1, 2013

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