launch the spring art season with superb works of art in its Irish & British Art Auction on 24 February at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Shrewd collectors continue to seek out art for investment and pleasure; the improving selling rates have demonstrated that art is proving to be a lucrative and rewarding asset for bidders. Viewing for this auction takes place from 22 to 24 February at the RDS.
The charm of Walter Frederick Osborne has never wavered with lovers of Irish art and recent sales of his work at auction are testament to this. Whytes spring sale offers a superb example by the artist in Sunshine and Shadow, [La Rue de l'Apport] Dinan, 1883 lot 35, estimated at 70,000-90,000. A glorious example of Social Realism, it is also evidence of his mastery of painting en plein air. Here, as the title suggests, he focuses on light, contrast and drama which he juxtaposes with the subject: a sedate peasant worker carrying out his everyday chores. The result is extraordinary. Osborne himself recognised this and submitted it for exhibition the following year at the RHA, Dublin to be admired by academics, contemporaries and the general public. The delightful, early Breton scene may look familiar to art aficionados, as the same street (painted by Osbornes friend Joseph Malachy Kavanagh) can be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. Whytes sale offers admirers of Osborne a fantastic opportunity to view this museum worthy painting which is sure to engage bidders on the 24 February.
A vision in white
Sir John Laverys gift in the genre of portraiture shines through in a large scale portrait of A Lady in White (A Portrait of Lady Lyle) [lot 28, estimated at 30,000-50,000]. Exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1895 this imposing beauty typifies Lavery style at the turn of the century when he was considered the leading international representative of the Glasgow School. It demonstrates the influence of Velázquez and Whistler in composition and tone, while the éclat of the Ladys fair skin and treatment of the delicate fabrics of her dress reveal his acute sensitivity to his sitter and the demands of his elite market. With a calling card such as this painting at the Royal Academy, London it was no wonder Lavery became one of the most sought-after portraitists. Later, Laverys exposure to North Africa would turn his interests towards a more exotic subject and sitter, as seen in lot 30 Dancing Girl, 1892 [estimate 6,000-8,000].
Nothern Irish artists continue to attract bidders with high prices paid recently for Daniel ONeill in particular. This sale includes several examples by ONeill including Boy Christ (illustrated left) with a provenance from the artists family [lot 12, 6,000-8,000]. Among the others are a pleasing still life and a figure study with guides from 3,000 upwards and a dynamic landscape entitled The Bridge, c.1963 [lot 11, 6,000-8,000]. Gerard Dillons dark Pierrot paintings have always fascinated collectors and lot 18 [7,000-9,000] (illustrated) dating to the 1960s is a wonderful example of this subject. The painting, which comprises collage and gouache, demonstrates an awareness of avant-garde trends on the Continent. It is contained in its original Dawson Gallery frame and has never before been seen at auction.
Louis le Brocquys oeuvre of the 1960s is represented this spring by an example from one of his most important bodies of work. Ancestral Head, 1965 [lot 69 35,000-45,000] was inspired by a visit to the anthropology museum in Paris, where he came across a collection of Polynesian skulls. This encounter spawned the early Ancestral Heads series and later evolved into the renowned portrait series of great writers and artists such as Samuel Beckett and Francis Bacon. Lot 69 marks the genesis of le Brocquys legacy and, rather then being bound to a personality, it has universal appeal; symbolising a shared human experience. Early examples by other artists, all recently celebrated with major retrospective shows, include: Basil Blackshaw with the equestrian portrait of Silver, c.1950s [lot 64, 10,000-15,000], Patrick Collins Aging Cat, 1969 [lot 63, 5,000-7,000] and Pauline Bewick, Yellow Man Up A Fig Tree, c.1996 [lot 92, 5,000-7,000].
For traditionalists, the sublime and the beautiful is represented in the Romantic, Figures By A River by James Arthur OConnor [lot 39, 8,000-10,000], which captures the awe-inspiring drama of nature with its ubiquitous figures dwarfed by the scenic backdrop. Maritime scenes by Edwin Hayes comprise lots 40, 41 & 192 with guides from 800 to 8,000 and of particular interest to enthusiasts of this genre will be George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinsons marvelous H.C.S. Warren Hastings off Ascension Island lot 42, 5,000-7,000. The Crawford Gallery holds an example by the Corkonian in their own collection. Diminutive works of the same era which pack a punch include three oils by William Sadler II [lots 36 to 38] guides from 1,000 to 1,800 while later works in watercolour by one of Irelands foremost entertainers Percy French [lots 43-47] guide between 1,000 and 3,000 will do doubt tempt bidders to raise their paddles.
Eclectic lots can be found in a fascinating collection [lots 23-27, guides 500 to 3,000] consigned by Leo Whelans family. It offers an eye-opening insight into his life with never before seen artworks, photographs, ephemera, press clippings, correspondence as well as charming craftwork by his talented sisters, Frances and Lily [lot 24, 600-800].
Watch out for
Harry Kernoffs topographical scenes, a lady with an evil eye by Charles Lamb and other works of great quality by James Humbert Craig, Nathaniel Hone, Augustus Nicholas Burke, Frank McKelvey, George Russell, Robert Egginton, White Staggists: Basil Rákóczi & Kenneth Hall, Mainie Jellett, Evie Hone, George Campbell, Patrick Hennessy, Barrie Cooke, Cecil King, Charles Brady, Markey Robinson, Gladys Maccabe, Padraig MacMíadhacháin, Graham Knuttel, Donald Teskey, Francis Tansey, a collection by Jonathan Wade, sculpture by Edward Delaney as well as contemporary British sculptor Helen Sinclair and many many more.