An exhibition of major Irish artworks from Sotheby’s upcoming auction of British and Irish Art will be shown in Dublin, ahead of the sale. The exhibition will take place from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 May 2014. Headlining the group is a stunning portrait by William Orpen and a selection of works by Ireland’s leading artists, including Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy, William Scott, John Lavery and Jack Butler Yeats. The 33 lots, estimated to bring in the region of £985,000 (€1.15 million), will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s in London on 22 May 2014.
Life Class on the Beach is a highly finished drawing from 1910 by Orpen. A drama of gazing, glimpsing and daydreaming, it shows a group of students on a summer’s day at Portmarnock outside Dublin, about to start drawing a girl, who is in the act of undressing. Orpen championed art teaching in Ireland, and the more liberal, modern French atelier-style instruction he experienced at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, guided his approach. Initially owned by the Duke of Marlborough, the drawing conveys his vision of a young Ireland expressing itself through its artists for the first time, and forms part of a fine sequence of tinted drawings produced between 1910 and 1914 (estimate £80,000-120,000 / €97,000-146,000).
The Morning Ride by John Lavery was painted during one of the artist’s annual winter pilgrimages to Tangier and was highly praised when it appeared in Lavery’s retrospective exhibition in 1914. It exemplifies his full-bloodied Impressionism, in which light and shade fall at random, and shows Alice Trudeau, the daughter of his wife Hazel, from her first marriage. Though sketch-like, the painting is remarkable for its atmospheric quality and, in picking out the musculature of the two horses, the tangled foliage and the white-washed perimeter wall, it achieves the spontaneity of Lavery’s Moroccan garden scenes. The relaxed colonial lifestyle he enjoyed at Dar-el Midfah, his house on Mount Washington, to the south-west of Tangier, is captured in a lush sunlit arcadia (estimate £100,000-150,000 / €121,000-182,000).
Painted in 1949, Man Hearing an Old Song by Jack Butler Yeats, depicts a man, his head bowed and ears cupped, listening with emotion to the song of a singer standing in the centre of the composition. Predominantly painted in blues and mauves with parts of the canvas left daringly bare, Yeats creates a work full of feeling and drama heightened by flashes of white, red and green and his energetic brushwork. Although painted late in his career, Yeats’ work continued to grow in vigour in terms of colour and composition. This painting evokes Yeats’ love of the music hall, which like the theatres and circuses he so enjoyed visiting, formed a vibrant part of his career; few rivalled his ability to convey the excitement of the stage (estimate £40,000-60,000 / €48,400 – 73,000).
Paul Henry’s Landscape is a new discovery in the artist’s oeuvre. Dated circa 1929- 30 on stylistic grounds, it possibly depicts a scene in County Wicklow. The painting is typical of Henry’s later treatment of the landscape of the West of Ireland and also typical in that little impasto has been used (estimate £25,000-35,000 / €30,300-42,400).
Gerald Dillon’s Cleaning the Boat depicts Roundstone harbour. In Connemara, Dillon found a haven from the political turmoil dominating Ireland and Roundstone became one of the artist’s favourite painting locations. In this scene, two fishermen scrub clean their boat against a backdrop of familiar white-washed cottages. The exuberance Dillon feels for the location is evoked though his use of bold colours. He considered Connemara, a remote land of stonewall fields, mountains, lakes, coast and islands, to hold the essence of Ireland (estimate £30,000-50,000 / €36,300-60,500).
Painted in 1969, Two Trees by Basil Blackshaw shows the longstanding influence of Cézanne’s analytical approach to painting in Blackshaw’s own work, with an emphasis on form, colour and tone. The artist explores spatial modulation with remarkable economy and creates an overall sense of unity and harmony (estimate £25,000-35,000 / €30,300-42,400).
Mainie Jellett holds a distinguished place within Irish art of the 20th century, being Ireland’s first and most accomplished cubist painter. Two Elements was painted during a pivotal time in her career when she was producing her most fully realised works. The boldness and simplicity of her treatment of abstract form and colour are as rarely equalled as in this picture, dating to 1924. Jellett defiantly argued the causes of cubism and became a champion of the modern movement. Only posthumously was her innovation and vital contribution to Irish art given full recognition, and her work is now found in the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Ireland. Jellett studied in Dublin.