I R I S H G A L L E R Y
John Philip Peacan fl.1879-1899
Oil on panel 10½ x 13½ inches
Signed by the artist verso
Inscribed verso with title and address at 17 Harcourt St.
Remnants of Bregazzi Label, 10 Merrion Row, Dublin
Exhibited: RHA 1885, number 434;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December, 2014
Provenance: Louise Shannan, Donaghadee, c.1915;
by descent to A.G.H., Buckinghamshire
Peacan ranks amongst the rarest of all Irish artists and were it not for his
work in France at the close of the 19th century, he might have escaped our
attention entirely. Not one single painting has appeared on the market in
modern times, which might suggest the he did not sign his work, as is the
case with the current example. However, we can build a profile of his output
through the records of the Royal Hibernian Academy where he exhibited
regularly from 1879 to 1898 and it is no surprise to discover a pattern
similar to that of his compatriots working in France at the time.
Very little is known about his early career but he may have studied in
London. His first exhibit at the RHA was a study entitled The Model’s Rest,
which he sent from Portland Road, Notting Hill. Other London works at the
RHA include Our Studio Pet; A Peep into Moore’s Melodies; One of the Arabi’s
Followers; A Difficult Problem; and a number of portraits. His first Irish
painting at the Academy was Ireland’s Eye from Dollymount, which he sent
there in 1884 from an address at 69 Harcourt Street. This is the same year
as his first French painting, A View on the Seine, which may have been done
on a very small panel, judging by the price of two guineas.
By the following year, Peacan had moved to number 17 Harcourt Street and it
is from this address that he sent the current Moret-sur-Loing painting to
the RHA. In 1886, works such as A French Cow Girl; and A Grey Day, Moret
were included with three other works, which might also have been painted in
France. One is reminded of similar titles by Frank O’Meara who was also
painting on the Loing about this time and it is interesting to compare the
simple dwelling here with O’Meara’s Towards Night and Winter in the
Municipal Gallery, Dublin. Other titles such as A Shady Corner; Sad News;
and Amongst the Marguerites are reminiscent of Nathaniel Hill and
Walter Osborne. Peacan’s
last French work, A View, Picardie, was shown in 1887.
In 1889 Peacan exhibited a work entitled No place Like Home and it is open to
speculation whether or not there was more to the work than the title
suggests. However, his pattern continued to fall in line with artists such
as Aloysius O’Kelly and Walter Osborne with West of Ireland scenes sent to the
annual exhibition from his new address in Roundstone, Co. Galway. Apart from a Connemara lake
scene of 1895, these later works focus on interior scenes with titles
such as Her First Situation; Domestic Economy; Home Manufacture, Connemara;
and The Seamstress.
Returning to the current work, the poplars surrounding
our dwelling were immortalised by Alfred Sisley in his paintings along the river. Sisley moved to Moret in 1880 and joined a band of great
Impressionist and Post Impressionist painters who worked there. Amongst
these was Edmond Charles Joseph Yon who painted a fine scene of the town as
it rises above the bridge. It takes in the Church, the old tower and a wide
expanse of water immediately below the bridge. A rider on a white horse
fords the river and makes his way towards the soaring poplars on the far
bank. These are of interest to us as it may well be that these poplars
are a continuation of the specimens shown in Peacan’s painting. The house on the
water’s edge appears to be that of a bargeman and it makes sense that he
would reside in close proximity to the town. River transport was a vital
factor in the establishment of Moret-sur-Loing as the main town of the
canton of Seine-et-Marne. However, by the time Peacan had arrived there, the
dominance of the river had been superseded by the railways, which allowed
artists to travel the short distance from their Paris studios and establish
colonies in the small villages of Barbizon; Fontainebleau, Bourron, Marlotte
and elsewhere. The first arrivals were attracted by the activities of
village and forest life. Others were entranced by the scenery along the
river and colonies were founded at St. Mammes; Moret-sur-Loing and
a few miles further south at Grez, with artists arriving by boat and on
The barge in Peacan’s painting is well loaded and would have been used to
ferry local produce into the centre of Paris returning with general supplies for the
villages. The bargeman sits in the sunshine outside his dwelling, perhaps
waiting for further cargo to arrive. He watches the activities of another
boatman who lands his catch of fish netted on the river.
Distinctive red tiles cover the roof and the lean-to workshop and add a
degree of warmth and radiance to the painting. The simplicity of the subject
matter is reflected in Peacan’s approach to the painting itself; there is no
evidence of reworking or fussing over detail and he reflects in the painting
an aura of tranquillity, which must have been what attracted him to the
scene in the first place.
Helen Mabel Trevor 1831 – 1900
A Morning Dream
Oil on canvas, 32 x 27 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1881
Exhibited: Society of Women Artists, 1886?;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, ’Helen Mabel Trevor and the Bretons’, Dublin, December 2005
Helen Mabel Trevor made a number of visits to Normandy and Brittany during the 1880s and 1890s. Many of these journeys are recorded in ‘Ramblings of an Artist’, illustrated by her own sketches in pen and ink, published in London in 1901. She also worked in Douarnenez and was particularly fond of Concarneau, where she spent the winter of 1895 in the company of her sister.
Painted in 1881, this newly discovered painting is one of her first Breton works, most of which illustrate the daily life of the Breton people. From her distinctive costume, Catherine Puget has identified the girl as a native of Pont-Aven. This is further confirmed by the style of the box bed in the background. These were enclosed beds, usually with sliding doors. As part of the furniture of the main room, they were very decorative, with open fret or spindle work panels. This allowed for light and ventilation. The style varied from village to village. In winter, the heavy curtain, seen here above the box bed, would be pulled down over the doors for additional warmth and comfort.
The painting is full of interesting detail, such as the knitting that sits on the ledge and the holy water font on the frame of the bed, behind which is a sprig of palm. A print of the Sacred Heart hangs inside the window. Even though a large section has been torn away, the print occupies a prominent position in the simple interior.
The costume is very well depicted. The girl wears loose sleeves, pulled up beyond her elbows which, with the help of her apron, protect her clothing as she works. Another pot sits on the window ledge with a collection of rags. The bottle at the back of the ledge probably contains the cleaning polish. A finished vessel sits on the floor behind the girl and sparkles in the sunlight flooding through the window. The strong light throws the stark white of the girl’s costume into sharp contrast with the dark finish of the box bed.
There is a glimpse of the outside buildings through the open window. It is tempting to suggest that the girl dreams about being outside and free from the monotony of her daily chores. This theme almost certainly identifies the work as A Morning Dream, exhibited at the Society of Women Artists in 1886.
Henry Allan 1865 – 1912
Family on a Country Road
Oil on canvas, 12 x 18 inches. Signed by the artist
Exhibited: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1889, number 91?;
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool?;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, ’Helen Mabel Trevor and the Bretons’, Dublin, December 2005
Provenance: Boydell Galleries, Liverpool;
Willem Roelofs, Amstelveen
Henry Allan was born on the 18th June, 1865, at Retreat House, Dundalk, the youngest son of William Allan and his wife Anne. After studying in Belfast and Dublin, he continued his art education in Antwerp. He returned to Ireland in 1889 and lived for a year or two in Downpatrick before moving to Dublin. According to Dr. Julian Campbell, he shared lodgings in Antwerp with Moynan and Edwin Hill. He probably knew van Gogh, who was also a student there at the time.
He won a number of prizes at the Antwerp Academy and the Taylor prize at the R.D.S. He made his debut at the R.H.A. in 1889 with a painting entitled Country Road near Antwerp. There is a strong possibility that this is the current painting. The high bonnet, shawl and apron worn by the woman are typical of Flemish costume of the day.
The scene depicts a family group returning from the river where they have gone to draw water. The water jar is carried on the back of a donkey, led by a man with a distinctive hat and red waistband. The woman carries a basket and leads a small child by the hand. The child wears a bonnet similar to that of her mother.
Allan’s work is extremely rare on the market today. It may be that most of his work was destroyed. The National Gallery of Ireland holds one example, A Dutch Interior, bequeathed by Joseph Malachy Kavanagh in 1912. Painted in the manner of Josef Israels, it was included in ‘The Irish Impressionists’ exhibition in 1984.
His Royal Hibernian Academy exhibits give an insight into his work. The subject matter was varied. One of his most successful pieces, The Little Matchseller, was awarded the Albert prize at the R.H.A. in 1893. Other works of this type were An Old Beggarwoman; A Flower Seller; Rag-Pickers; Fishsellers; Fieldworkers, Dublin and Carting Sea-weed in the Ards. He also painted local scenery around Dublin and County Down as well as portraits, studio pieces and figure studies.
Johnson & Greutzner report five paintings exhibited in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, but it has not been possible to trace the original records. However, the Boydell label on the original frame obviously suggests a Liverpool connection.
Henry Jones Thaddeus 1859 - 1929
The Kasbah Gate, Tangier
Oil on canvas, 12 x 10 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1889
Literature: Brendan Rooney, The Life and Work of Henry Jones Thaddeus
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, ’Garstin, O’Kelly, Thaddeus and Friends’, Dublin, December 2004
Henry Thaddeus Jones was a native of Cork where he studied art under James Brennan at the School of Art from the age of ten. Within ten years he had won his first Taylor Prize, which allowed him to advance his career with further study in London. In common with many of the art students of his day, he found his way to Paris and he entered the Academie Julian where he worked under the guidance of Boulanger and Lefebvre.
In 1881 Thaddeus left Paris for Brittany where he spent the summer season painting around the historic walled port of Concarneau. He had become a highly accomplished painter whose work was hung in prime position at the Paris Salon. Although he is mostly remembered as a portrait painter, his narrative works and those that record his extensive travels are rare and worthwhile. These ranged in style from the plein air works in the square brush manner of Lepage to the highly finished style of the Victorian academy artist.
As an inveterate traveller, his journeys took him to the Orient on more than one occasion. Indeed, he returned there in 1891 and built a house and studio the following year in Cairo, but this had as much to do with his appointment as official painter to the Khedive, Abbas II Hilmi, than his desire to escape the dreary European winters. This recently discovered canvas was painted in 1889 while Thaddeus was visiting his friend, Paul Belloni du Chaillu, a French explorer who became famous for his pioneering journeys through the equatorial interior of Africa in the latter half of the 1850’s.
Intense light is reflected upwards from the white sand and the white buildings of the city below and contrasts with the cool shadow offered by the ancient walls of the fortress. A blind beggar stands patiently by the gate whilst two elders sit in the searing heat of the early afternoon sun. A solitary figure approaches them on the track from the City below. The dilapidated state of the gate would have appealed to Thaddeus. It is the only one extant from the ancient walled fortifications on the high ground that surrounds the city of Tangiers. As an important trading port servicing many caravan routs from places such as the Soudan, the fortifications were necessary to protect the riches of the city from nomadic marauders.
Painting in the Orient was popularised by artists such as the influential Jean-Léon Gérome. It became a regular destination for late 19th century artists. Thaddeus is often overlooked as one of the Irish Orientalists, with more attention being given to
Garstin and O’Kelly. The latter painted another version of the Kasbah showing two camel riders passing through the gate.
William Gerard Barry 1864 – 1941
Oil on board, 11 ½ x 16 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1911
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 2001
Provenance: This painting was recently sold in France with a portrait of Lady Davis, signed by Barry and dated 1924. This was the year of her marriage to the Montreal philanthropist, Sir Mortimer B. Davis. They had a house in Cannes, which is where Barry probably painted the portrait. He may have made their acquaintance during his time spent in Montreal.
The son of a magistrate, William Gerard Barry was born at Ballyadam, Carrigtwohill, in the county of Cork. Displaying a natural gift for drawing, he enrolled in the Cork School of Art where he enjoyed the benefit of Henry Jones Thaddeus as master. This course was followed by further study in Paris from 1885 at the Académie Julian and under Le Febre, Boulanger and Carolus Duran. He lived in Montmartre and sent work to the Salon in this year and the following year of 1886. His fist success as an artist was a £30 Taylor prize for a painting he sent to the Royal Dublin Society from Étaples in 1887. He was painting here with
Frank O’Meara in a small colony of French, American and English artists. According to O’Meara, they were established along a river, three miles in from the sea. Surrounded by dunes, marshes and woodlands, there was no shortage of subject matter. Situated just twenty minutes from Boulogne, accommodation was more affordable than at Grez. There are worthwhile comparisons to be made between O’Meara and Barry apart from their backgrounds. Barry’s best-known work, Time Flies , Crawford Gallery, Cork, painted in 1887, is reminiscent of the poignancy that runs through the handful of O’Meara’s paintings.
Rare as they are, they are not as scarce as Barry’s, whose work is practically unknown on the market. The Crawford painting is the only one in a public collection. His early career was interrupted shortly after his success at Étaples. Almost destitute, following a row with his father, he was forced to work a passage to Canada where he eked out a living as a sign painter. He found his way to America in 1888 and built a reputation as a portrait painter. In 1890, he returned to Paris and studied under Fernand Cormon before returning to New York. His lifestyle was, for the most part, nomadic, which may be one explanation for the scarcity of his work. He travelled to many countries and visited the South Seas. He eventually settled in St. Jean-de-Luz.
This extremely rare example of his work shows that by 1911 Barry had become a most accomplished painter in a free and loose style. Among others, it compares to the work of
Roderic O’Conor’s Pont-Aven seascapes, especially in the employment of a high horizon line. There is a possibility that this is a Breton work, as it is known that Barry painted there later in his career. There are also similarities to Lavery’s Moroccan compositions in the tonal effects used for the sea and sky. Augustus Burke also painted seascapes very close in style to this painting.
Eva Henrietta Hamilton 1876-1960
Moret sur Loing
Oil on panel, 7 x 5 inches. Signed by the artist
Inscribed verso: Miss Nellie O’Brien: Moret sur Loing
Trade label verso: Daniel Egan, 26 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin
In this loose study of a busy market scene Eva Hamilton displays all the panache and vigour normally found in her early work. The study is reminiscent of the street scenes of
Aloysius O’Kelly, May Guinness,
Norman Garstin and a number of their contemporaries. Eva successfully captures in paint a joy so often felt when one comes upon a street scene such as this. The panel is most likely to date from 1908, the year Eva exhibited a related work at the Royal Hibernian Academy entitled The Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing. The size of this small panel is identical to other works of the period as is the handling of paint. For example, compare the sky to that of Figure on a Path, Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 1993.
Eva was not alone amongst Irish artists to paint this mediaeval walled town, set in the heart of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Henry Jones Thaddeus may have been the first. He is recorded painting there in 1882, followed later by
John Lavery, Roderic O’Conor and the obscure John P. Peacan.
The inscription verso, Miss Nellie O’Brien, more than likely refers to the subsequent owner who may have received the painting as a gift. She may have been a friend or acquaintance. At the RHA in 1918 Eva exhibited a work entitled Nellie which almost certainly relates to our inscription.
Windmill on a Hillside
Oil on panel, 12 x 10 inches
Label verso Junior Army and Navy Stores
Framing Department, D’Olier House, Dublin
Provenance: Alain Chawner, Collon, Co. Meath, 1980
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2014
Eva Hamilton studied under William Orpen at the Dublin Metropolitan School
of Art. His influence is clearly evident in her early work and his manner in
painting the sky became a particular hallmark of Hamilton’s work. This remained apparent
well into the 1920s and is very much in evidence in the current work. It is one of the best skies she painted and
is every bit as good as her master. The layout of the composition is also typical of her work. She was inclined to ignore the
conventional method of breaking a composition into three equal horizontal bands, the top section
of which was usually devoted to the sky. Instead, Eva would fill her
canvas with the sky and apportion only a thin band of landscape to the foreground. The
method is dramatic when it is works as it evident here.
The framer’s label allows us to place a fairly accurate date on the
painting, which might relate to her RHA exhibit of 1912, On the
Suffolk Coast. The mill, which sits on top of gently rising ground, is a likely
match for the county.
Letitia Marion Hamilton 1878 - 1964
Snow on the Sugarloaf, Glengariff
Oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches. Verso: Sketch for a Landscape
Provenance: Dawson Gallery, Dublin
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 1993
Letitia Hamilton can be described as
an Irish avant-garde painter in the true sense of the term. She studied
under the powerful and diverse influences of William Orpen and Frank
Brangwyn and yet neither tutor is discernable in her work. She absorbed a
great deal from these liaisons and through her close association with many
leading artists at home and abroad.
Paul Henry was perhaps the father figure of her group, which also
included Mary Swanzy, Grace Henry and Jack Yeats. Together with Letitia and
five other painters, they formed the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920.
Over the following ten years, Letitia Hamilton and her group firmly
established a new direction in Irish art.
This small panel relates to Snow at Glengariff, Royal Hibernian
Academy, 1945. It is one of a number of snow scenes painted by Letitia from
time to time. Using a low key range of colours, it displays a style which is
individual and instantly recognisable. Her work often gives the impression
of being sculpted rather than painted due to a strong reliance on the
palette knife. When studied in close-up, the under drawing in charcoal can
be seen, with many areas of priming allowed to show through. Looking
southwest across Glengariff Harbour into the Caha Mountains, the view shows
Gowlbeg to the left, the Sugarloaf in the distance and Shrone Hill as it
runs down to the waterfront.
Sarah Purser 1848 - 1943
Portrait of Constance
Oil on canvas 40 x 30 inches Inscribed on stretcher
Provenance: John Griffin
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, June 1990
In 1906 Constance Gladys Grimshaw married Col. Conn Alexander, the third son of the Earl of Caledon, Castle Caledon, Co. Tyrone. She was the daughter of Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw C.B. M.D. Col. Conn Alexander's eldest brother was the fourth Earl of Caledon and father of Viscount Alexander of Tunis, Col. Harold (Alix) Alexander. Col. Alix was a very competent artist and went on frequent painting trips with Churchill. This portrait was probably painted about two years after her marriage.
Purser’s career spanned one of the most important and exciting periods in the history of Irish Art. She played a central role in the establishment of An Tur Gloine and was the main force behind the formation of the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, a movement which remains very active to this present day. She will also be remembered for her work in the foundation of the Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin. She studied at the Academie Julian in Paris and on her return to Dublin she successfully established herself as a leading society painter. She maintained contact with France for many years and made a number of return visits there. Through her many notable artistic associates in France and elsewhere she managed to keep abreast of new developments and trends in European art. From Mespil House she became a popular hostess to Dublin's literary and artist circles. Throughout her long career Sarah Henrietta Purser was a regular contributor to the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibitions.
John Butler Yeats 1839 – 192214
The Flower Girl
Oil on canvas 21 x 14 inches. Signed by the artist and dated 1883
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, June 1990
John Butler Yeats is better known as a portrait painter and as the father of the poet William Butler Yeats and the artist Jack Butler Yeats. Indeed, one of the reasons for spending the last fourteen years of his life in New York was that there, he could be the head of an illustrious family and avoid the comparisons proximity would have brought.
After boarding at the Atholl Academy on the Isle of Man, John Yeats did not follow his father and grandfather into the Church, but read law when he entered Trinity College, Dublin in 1857. In 1863 he married Susan, the sister of his fellow pupil at Atholl, the astrologer George Pollexfen. Yeats was called to the Bar in 1866, but a year later quit law for art and went to London to study at Heatherleigh's Art School. He was back in Dublin between 1880 to 1887 but returned to London where he became part of the circle of leading artists and writers.
In 1901 he was invited by Hugh Lane to paint a series of portraits of those prominent in the Irish Revival. George Russell wrote of his enchanting flow of conversation which lightened the burden of sitting. This success enabled Yeats to settle in Dundrum until he went to America in 1908. He stayed there until his death in 1922, writing, painting and lecturing. Joseph Hone wrote in his memoir of him that he was never known to make a plan and had the 'conviction, even at 80, that he was on the verge of new advances'.
In the early 1880s Yeats was not so consumed by his portrait practice and found time to paint a number of studies such as this portrayal of life on the Dublin streets. He was working from a studio at 7 St. Stephen's Green, which may be a likely location for The Flower Girl. The boy in the background was one of many urchins willing to clear a path across the road for a farthing, thereby saving the ladies fancy shoes and trailing hemlines.
Kavanagh 1856 -1918
The Meadow Water at Swords
Oil on canvas, 13 x 9 inches. Signed by the artist and dated ‘93
Exhibited: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1894, number 98;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, November 1999
Although he was a prolific painter Kavanagh’s work is extremely rare. As Keeper of the RHA, he was a resident in their premises on Abbey Street when the buildings, including his studio and paintings, were destroyed by fire during the 1916 rebellion. The only surviving works are those which had left his possession before the fire. Kavanagh was lucky to escape with his life from the burning building but he never fully recovered from the tragedy.
In the early years Kavanagh’s career follows a path similar to that of Osborne and Hill. The main body of work shows local studies from home followed by views in Antwerp and the surrounding Dutch countryside and numerous studies of life in Brittany. Unlike
Osborne he does not appear to have worked extensively in England and became more of a local painter than Osborne on his return to Ireland. Although Osborne and
Hill developed almost identical styles, Kavanagh’s work is more individual in style.
Painters are often attracted to reside in areas where they can find good subject matter without the need to travel far afield. From his base in Clontarf Kavanagh painted numerous views around Howth and its environs, many aspects of Dublin Bay and his famous views on the sands of Portrane, Sutton, Portmarnock, Merrion and the North Bull where, in 1893, he painted Cockle-Pickers on the North Bull Sands. In this same year he painted our view of The Meadow Water at Swords. This introduces another popular theme for Kavanagh and many titles relate to this, for example, Portmarnock Marsh, Killester Ponds, Beside the Marsh, Portmarnock, A Salt Marsh and The Quarry Pond. Another related group entails views taken along Dublin’s riverbanks. In terms of handling the current painting relates closely to Between the Autumn and the Spring, 1905, A November Evening, 1904, National Gallery of Ireland and Dartry Pond, 1911. The topography suggests a location just inland from the estuary, close to Lissen Hall. The composition compares to works such as Woodland Pastures, Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork, exhibited at the RHA in 1902 and The Stately Elm, 1903. Parkland settings were a
favourite with Kavanagh. Alongside this painting at the RHA of 1903 he exhibited a related painting, In Rathfarnham Park. Another distinctive motif of Kavanagh’s work is displayed here - in many of his paintings a tree soars to the edge of the canvas to form a focal point and add strength to the composition.
May Guinness 1863 – 1955
Umbrella Pine in a French Landscape
Oil on canvas 27 x 19 ¾ inches. Signed by the artist
Framers label verso, Nancy Bouchard, 75 Rue Saint Jaques, Paris
Provenance: Marguerita Davies, Bournemouth;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin;
Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin.
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, May 1992
introduction to the catalogue which accompanied the May Guinness Memorial
Exhibition in 1956, Dr. James White described May Guinness as "the first of
her race to paint her way into the heart and spirit of the new movement of
the 20th century". May Guinness was indeed one of the most innovative Irish
painters of her time. Both she and Mary Swanzy were the first Irish
exponents of the International Modernist style. Experimenting with modernist
styles some 15 years before Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, May Guinness is
all the more exceptional when one considers that she belonged to the
generation of Osborne and Lavery. She was four years younger than Osborne
and seven years younger than Lavery. Her confinement to the family home at
Tibradden, Rathfarnham during the 1880s was due to the responsibility
imposed upon her of her younger brothers' and sisters' education combined,
in 1888, with the death of her father. Therefore, her career as a painter
began at a relatively late stage. It suffered further interruption with the
outbreak of the First World War during which time May Guinness was living in
France. She joined the French army as a military nurse and in 1917 received
the Croix de Guerre for bravery.
Though she is
recorded as having studied under Norman Garstin at Newlyn in 1894 and later
in Belgium circa 1905, her real development did not occur until 1905-1907
when she went to Paris. There, she immediately came under the influence of
Matisse and the other Fauves, whose works were to be seen at the Salon
d'Automne and the Salon des Independants, and later the Cubist works of
Picasso and Braque. The synthesis of these two styles as seen in the
paintings of the Ecole de Paris strongly influences her throughout her
career. Her early work testifies to her admiration of Matisse, in
particular. From 1905 to 1922 she variously studied under Fauve painters
Ermenagildo Anglada-Camarosa and Kees Van Dongen and from 1922 to 1925 under
the Cubist painter Andre Lhote. The latter, in his introduction to the
catalogue which accompanied her exhibition at the Gallerie Visconti, Paris,
in 1925, referred to her as "a promising artist and one that has worked hard
to encourage and develop Modernism." In her 1992 catalogue entry, Christina
Kennedy observes: After 1925, May Guinness returned to a free, descriptive,
essentially Fauvist approach to painting having tired of the formulaic
Cubist method. At 72 years of age she declared that she had completed her
experiment and was now settling down to explore "flat rhythmic arrangements
of line and colour".
contributed to the Salon d'Automne, exhibited with the Dublin Painters Group
and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. During her long life she collected
paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, Rouault, Dufy and others. At her
weekly tea-parties, held in her studio at Marlay Courtyard she gathered
friends and younger artists, including Jack B. Yeats, Mary Swanzy, Evie
Hone, Mainie Jellett, Father Jack Hanlon and many others. She was a great
source of encouragement to them. As Dr S. B. Kennedy points out, it is very
difficult to chart the development of May Guinness' work as she rarely dated
her paintings and in all her one-woman exhibitions she showed a combination
of recent and past works executed in various styles. However, Umbrella Pine
in a French Landscape most probably dates from her early, pre-Cubist days in
Paris and is possibly as early as 1907. This painting bears a strong
resemblance to A Pine Tree at St. Tropez painted by Albert Marquet in 1906.
Marquet and Matisse, who were close friends, frequently worked together in
the south of France, sometimes with Signac who had a villa at St. Tropez.
Although painted on a horizontal canvas it too features a centrally located
pine tree against a mountainous background at the base of which nestles a
scattering of small, cube-like, white houses. Though May Guinness, in
addition, depicts a large purple rock at the foot of the tree and in the
middle distance disposes a belt of burnt-orange boulders, the elements of
her composition are essentially the same as those of Marquet. Her mauve,
orange, pink and deep green colour scheme though bolder, brighter and more
characteristically Fauve than that of Marquet was no doubt inspired by the
paintings of Marquet's fellow Fauve exhibitors. Of all the Fauve painters
Marquet's palette was the most tonal, but, as Matisse explained in an
interview with Jacques Guenni in 1925, "Marquet did not have enough money
for colours ... perhaps this economic condition flavoured his style".
Though it is
hypothesis, it is very likely that A Pine Tree at St. Tropez was on
exhibition with other Fauve works in Paris in 1906-1908. Marquet exhibited
at the Salon des Independants from 1901 to 1910 and at the Salon d'Automne
from 1903 to 1910. His work was also to be seen at the Berthe Weill and
Druet Galleries at the time. If this was the case, May Guinness would
undoubtedly have seen this painting.
Mainie Jellett 1897 – 1944
In the People's Gardens, Phoenix Park
Oil on canvas board 7 x 10 inches
Provenance: Presented by Mainie Jellett to Elizabeth FitzPatrick, Dublin
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, May 1992;
'A Time and a Place, National Gallery of Ireland, 2006, number 59
Coming from a family noted for their
academic brilliance, Mainie Jellett excelled not only in painting, but also
in music, a gift she inherited from her mother. Mainie carried a great love
for the piano with her to her tragic death in early 1944. She was, however,
destined to be an artist from a very early age and was taught painting by
Elizabeth Yeats, May Manning and later William Orpen at the Metropolitan
School of Art in Dublin. In 1917 she left Ireland for London
and the Westminster School of Art, where she studied under Walter Sickert.
It was in London that she first met Evie Hone who was to become her
life-long friend and companion. In February 1921 she travelled to Paris
where she became a pupil of Andre Lhote, providing her first encounter with
Cubism. She considered Lhote's ideas a compromise, however, and in December
of the same year she went with Hone to Albert Gleizes in the search for a
more abstract form of art.
In 1923, after
two years with Gleizes, Mainie Jellett exhibited her first totally abstract
paintings at the Dublin Painters Gallery in St. Stephen's Green. She was to
exhibit here frequently for much of the rest of her life, including in 1924
her only joint exhibition with Evie Hone. It may be said of Jellett that her
work lacks originality and is to close in style to that of Gleizes. However,
there is only a grain truth in this. She had the ability to take her own
chosen subject matter and portray it in the manner of Gleizes. It must be
remembered that Gleizes himself had been influenced by others. That's the
way it works. On the plus side, there is nothing cheap about Jellett's
abstractionism. She was not using abstraction as an escape route to avoid
the difficulties of traditional easel painting as is so often the case with
far too many impostors.
shown here demonstrates Mainie's skills and abilities. Broadly painted, free
and colourful, the sketch captures a summers day in Dublin's Phoenix Park
where the Jellett family relax on the grass after a tram ride from the city
about 1920, it displays an abandon which is to be found in the happy and
informal sketches of her family, which Mainie produced at this time. The
provenance of the painting is interesting. Mainie's sister, Betty, married Sean Purser, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick's
Grace Henry 1868 - 1953
Hills of Connemara
Oil on canvas, 13 x 16 inches. Signed by the artist. Inscribed
with title verso
Exhibited: United Arts Club, number 58, date not known;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dec. 1993
In the year 1900, Emily Grace Mitchell
met her future husband, Paul Henry, while studying art in Paris. They married
in 1903 and set up home in Surrey. In 1912, they set out for a short holiday
on Achill Island; a journey which effectively lasted for eight full years and
the birth of two fine Irish painters. Grace had gone to Paris at the age of 32
even though she was already well established as a painter. She had exhibited
with the Aberdeen Artist's Society in her native Scotland in 1898. In 1924, at
the age of 55, she returned to Paris for further study with Andre Lhote,
following the same course as Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett three years earlier.
Her work is distinguished by her bright range of colours rather than her
style, which is somewhat eclectic. In her painting, she responded readily to
the people and environment she found herself in. This variety presents many
surprises and is one of the reasons why she has such a strong following. In
Hills of Connemara, a familiar row of smoking white cottages hugs the hillside
as two figures labour in a small lakeside field. The picture relates closely
in handling to one of her best known Achill works, Top of the Hill, (Limerick
City Art Gallery). In these paintings, her technique was to fill a dark
outline with strong bold colour, somewhat reminiscent of the work of
Frank McKelvey 1895 – 1974
Oil on canvas, 15 x 20. Signed by the artist and inscribed
verso with title.
Provenance: The Oriel Gallery, Dublin;
DeVeres Art Auctions, April 2005;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art;
Private collection, U.S.A.
From an early age, Frank McKelvey displayed an exceptional talent. He was
awarded the Brett prize for figure drawing at the age of sixteen. This was the
first of a number of prizes which he gained during his student days at the
Municipal Technical Institute in Belfast. Following his final year in 1918, he
built a successful career, and became an associate member of the Royal
Hibernian Academy within ten years, and a full member seven years later. He
was also a member of the Royal Ulster Academy. He was born in Belfast in June,
1895. His father was a decorator and it is interesting to note that a number
of other successful artists came from a similar background. During the 1920s,
he worked from a number of studios in Belfast where he became well know for
his depiction of the Irish landscape. His final move was to Hollywood, Co.
Down in 1967.
He was a most prolific painter, producing numerous river and coastal views
from Donegal, Connemara, and Antrim along with many farmyard scenes. From 1951
onwards, he made frequent painting trips to France where he produced some of
his best works. He was also a painter of portraits and was as proficient in
watercolour as he was in oil. His work is found in public collections in
Brussels, Ottowa, Glasgow, London, Dublin, Belfast, Waterford, Cork and
Limerick and elsewhere.
Edwin Hayes 1820 – 1904
Oil on board, 9 ½ x 17 ¼ inches. Signed by the artist
Inscribed with title and indistinctly dated
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2006
Edwin Hayes was born in Bristol, but spent his youth in Dublin, where his father kept the Bristol Hotel and Tavern
in Marlborough Street. His main ambition in life was to become a marine painter and to this end he registered as a student with the Dublin Society Schools. He eventually set
up a studio in Dublin from which he regularly sent work to the RHA. In 1852 he moved to London and found employment as a scene painter at the Adelphi Theatre. He resumed his
exhibiting career at the British Institution with a view of the River Liffey and the Custom House. He sent his first painting to the Royal Academy in 1855 and continued to exhibit there
for the next fifty years. He painted mostly in oil, but he was also a fine watercolourist. Much of his work depicts shipping in high seas and harbour scenes with French and Dutch
luggers around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. These must have reminded him of his visits to the ports of France, Belgium, Holland, Spain and Italy, many of which he recorded
His great knowledge of the sea allowed him to paint it in all its moods and glories,
whether this was a raging storm or a flat calm. These skills are to the fore in this example, which shows a sailing ship battling against a furious sea. The dark foreboding sky
above the ship adds dramatic effect to the crashing white water lit by a momentary burst of strong light that breaks through the storm cloud. The tiny figures leaning over the pier
wall signify the sheer power of the ocean and the magnitude of the scene played out before their eyes.
One of his earliest French seascapes was a study in the Bay of Cancal, which
he sent to the RHA in 1862. This was followed a few years later by a number of
views along the coast between Portel and Boulogne. Calais is just a short
distance away and it is likely that the present work was painted at this time.
This dramatic scene might have been inspired by Turner’s famous painting,
which depicts a raging storm with shipping off the old timber wharf. The
buildings and flagpoles at the end of the pier are also found in an earlier
watercolour by David Cox. Other paintings of the period show the stout,
protective timber planks that line the pier wall from the seaward side.
James Arthur O'Connor 1792-1841
A Dargle Landscape with a Fisherman
Oil on canvas 14 x 18 inches.
Signed by the artist and dated 1836
Provenance: Dr. Cremin, Dublin;
Éamonn de Valera, President of Ireland;
Christies, London, 8th May, 2009;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art;
Private collection, USA
Literature: Brendan Rooney in W. Laffan, ed., The Sublime and The Beautiful:
Irish Art 1700-1830, London, 2001, pp.170-7, no.17, illustrated.
James Arthur O'Connor was born in Dublin about 1792. The son of an engraver
and print-seller, O'Connor gained his earliest exposure to the visual arts
in his father's shop and may also have studied under William Sadler
(c.1782-1839). Already exhibiting in Dublin as a teenager by 1809, O'Connor
left for London in 1813, intending to settle there. On his return in 1818,
he was taking commissions for topographical views from important patrons
such as the Marquis of Sligo and the Earl of Clanricarde. In 820, he was
awarded a premium by the Royal Irish Institute. By 1822, he was back in
London exhibiting Irish views at the Royal Academy and the British
Institution thereby helping to stoke the English taste for
characteristically Irish landscapes that had been ignited by George Barret
in the preceding century. O'Connor's landscape style during this period was
inspired by the British picturesque movement, presenting views distinguished
by the rugged and varied character of the landscape. His vigorous use of
impasto served to evoke the reality of the countryside with an immediacy
that is equally served by his cleverly grasped compositions, where loops and
bends around receding trees draw the viewer into the scene.
The most important watershed in O'Connor's career comes in 1830 with his
second return trip to Ireland. “I am going to the wild and beautiful scenery
of my native country to refresh my memory”, he wrote in August of that year,
“I know that I will be benefited by a sigh of the grand scenery I will meet
in Ireland, and hope to show it on canvas” (quoted in J. Hutchinson, James
Arthur O'Connor, Dublin, 1985, p.151). His works after this moment become
more deeply Romantic, invoking Burke's notions of the Sublime in nature, as
mediated by George Barret. A previously uncatalogued date of 1836 in the
present picture places it securely in this second period.
The image of a solitary fisherman in an untamed abundant river landscape was
one that fascinated O'Connor both before and after 1830. The present
painting can be compared to a similar composition, A Fisherman by the Dargle,
as well as to one of O'Connor's most celebrated paintings, The Devil's Glen,
County Wicklow, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, dated 1828. Of similar
size and scale to the present picture, The Devil's Glen also places a single
fisherman at the focal point of a picturesque multi tiered landscape, but
turning away from the viewer, as though about to cast his fishing line.
O'Connor seems to have been spell-bound by the possibilities of this motif
of the solitary angler, so eloquent of the quiet interaction between the
human individual and a mighty generous Nature. <<Ex. Christie’s catalogue
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