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I R IS H  A R T  S A L E S

James Humbert Craig, R.H.A 1878 - 1944

Photograph of a painting by James Humbert Craig.

Horn Head from Breaghy

Oil on panel 11 x 17 inches. Signed by the artist
Ref: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1932
Title inscribed verso

Provenance: Combridge, Grafton Street, Dublin, c.1935;
Hamilton Estate, County Fermanagh;
by descent to present owner
Price: €6,950 [GB£5,750]


Craig was born with an extraordinary natural talent. Apart from one very brief term at the School of Art in Belfast, he developed his own skills as a painter and it may be this facet of his work which sets him apart from his contemporaries who tended to paint to an academic formula.

The restlessness of youth took him to America, where he crossed the continent moving from job to job. At the relatively late age of thirty seven, he settled down to a serious career in painting, sending his first exhibit to the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1915. He was influenced in his early work by Paul Henry but as his career developed this became less apparent. Featuring mostly views of Connemara, Donegal and Antrim, his distinctive rendition of the Irish coast and his particular treatment of the Irish landscape make his work instantly recognisable.

Breaghy is situated on the west side of Sheephaven Bay, County Donegal, close to the small fishing harbours of Portnablagh and Dunfanaghy. The view across to Horn Head is typical of this part of the Donegal coast, renowned for its isolated beaches, spectacular cliffs and rugged coastal tracks.


Nathaniel Hill 1861 - 1934

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hill

Sunshine, Brittany

Oil on canvas 18 x 12 inches. Signed by the artist dated 1884
Provenance: Mrs. Place;

by descent to her daughter:

dispersal sale, 16 Alma Road, Monkstown, Co. Dublin, Hamilton & Hamilton, 1st May, 1986, lot no 248;
Milmo-Penny Fine Art;
Private collection, Dublin
Exhibited: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1885, number 257;

‘Onlookers In France’, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, 1993;

‘Peintres Irlandais en Bretagne’ Musée de Pont-Aven, France, 1999;

Irish Artists in Brittany, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork 200;
'Nathaniel Hill and the Bretons', Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2007
Literature: Dublin University Review, Illustrated Art Supplement, Dublin, London, 1885, p.14;
Campbell, ‘The Irish Impressionists’, National Gallery of Ireland, 1984, pp. 131, 132
Price on application. Contact Dominic at mpfa.ie
Link to full details - Nathaniel Hill.



William John Hennessy 1839 – 1917



Breton Girl Returning from the Well

Oil on canvas. 48 x 24 inches.
Pendant labels verso
Provenance: G.& C.Sadde, Dijon, France
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, December 2008
Private collection, Dublin, since 1974
Price: €9,500

Hennessy was preoccupied with the portrayal of local people as they went about their daily work. The routine of drawing water was a very common theme amongst his contemporaries. The girl portrayed here has just filled her metal banded wooden pails, which she carries with the aid of a metal hoop. The pails were attached to the hoop and prevented the legs from being battered on the return journey. The device does not appear frequently in Breton paintings but is often found in the Normandy works by Jules Dupre where the hoop was used to carry milk pails from the fields to the dairy. It was also used as far afield as America to carry water from the well to the laundry. However, in this case, the water is more likely to be for the household. Laundry in Brittany was normally brought to the water. The wide flat stones, which span the stream in front of the well in this painting, would have been placed there for this purpose. Many wells in Brittany were regarded as holy places and were often protected by elaborate stonework such as that shown here. The waterfall at the back of the well was man-made for the purpose of keeping the water fresh and oxygenated. The wild flowers on both sides of the sandy track are a feature of many of Hennessy’s paintings. He was also known for his ability to paint a good sky, and the fading light of evening is another feature of this work. Its companion piece, A Summer Evening is dated 1886, and the current work appears to be about the same date.


John Skelton 1925 - 2009

Photograph of a painting of Howth by John Slelton.

The Baily, Howth

Oil on board, 20 x 24 inches. Signed by the artist
Provenance: Private collection, Dublin, since 1974
Price: €2,850 [GB£2,350]

Skelton comes from a long line of artists whose roots and influences trace back to Paul Henry through artists such as Tom Nisbet and those in the circle of James Humbert Craig. A contemporary of Stanley Pettigrew, their paths crossed several times during their early years. Stanley developed his own brand of Impressionism while Skelton went on to develop a modern planar style, which is immediately distinguishable. The Modern Irish School were essentially painters of the West of Ireland and were at their best on the coast. Skelton’s Connemara seascapes are well known but he was also inspire by the scenery of the East coast where he painted many of his familiar beach scenes on Bull Island and the small estuaries along the North Dublin coast. Although the central theme of the current work is the Baily light, the painting is fundamentally a study of light, atmosphere and perspective. There are no fewer than twelve bands of colour between the immediate foreground and the skyline. Skelton blends these with great skill and dexterity. His handling of perspective is remarkable, considering the complexities of the numerous elements involved.

He began his professional career in London in the late 1940s under the influence of the Euston Road School. He later settled in Dublin where he worked as a book illustrator before turning to painting on a full time basis in the 1970s. He exhibited regularly at the RHA and occasionally in the USA. He lectured at the National College of Art and Design where he is remembered for the great rapport he developed with this students.


William John Hennessy 1839 – 1917

Photograph of a drawing by William John Hennessy.

The Votive Offering

Ink, sepia and gum Arabic on paper; 6 ¾ x 4 ¾ inches. Signed by the artist
Provenance:Private collection, London
Ref: The Graphic, London, July 31st 1875
Price: €1,600


This drawing appears to be a preparatory work for Hennessy’s important Royal Academy oil, Bringing the Ex-Voto to the Church, sold by Sotheby’s, New York, in 1982. However, although the detail common to both works is faithfully reproduced, the view is enlarged and further detail is added to the Academy oil. This includes a cleric sitting on a bench overlooking the sea and a lady sitting on the grass to his left. The houses in the background and the tall monument are omitted in the oil and the small shrine pinned to the tree is shown further to the left. The angle of view is also changed, which allows for a wider view of the distant headland.

The theme depicts a small family group as they make their way to a Church situated on high ground overlooking the sea. The central figure has the appearance of a mariner. He is depicted in a reflective mode as he carries his offering of a model ship, complete with furled sails, to the Church. An ex-voto offering may take many forms and is made following a vow or in gratitude to a particular saint. The offering of a model ship might indicate a rescue at sea or survival in a violent storm.

An illustration of the Royal Academy painting appeared in 'The Graphic' on July 31st, 1875.

Further details - William John Hennessy.



Nathaniel Hone RHA 1831-1917



Malahide Pastures

Oil on canvas laid on board, 19 x 30 inches
Provenance: John Chambers Collection, Dublin, 1992;
Private Collection, Dublin
Price on application: Dominic at mpfa.ie

Nathaniel Hone is perhaps best known for his celebrated painting, Pastures at Malahide, which he donated to the National Gallery of Ireland in 1907. Bodkin gives a good description of the painting in his 1920 compendium, ‘Four Irish Landscape Painters’. “The heavy rain cloud to the right is of reddish hue, merging into cool purple grey. There is a little clear blue sky in the upper left corner. A burst of sunlight illuminates the ploughed upland. The long grove of trees in the background is dark, luscious green, composed mainly of a mixture of chrome yellow and ivory black. The patches of ragweed scattered through the pasture are painted with the same colour. The cows are red and white. The work was done very rapidly and dexterously with fluid paint richly, but thinly, laid.”

The pasturage was on Hone’s doorstep so it is not surprising that he returned to it on regular occasions. However, thanks to the ever-changing light and clouds rolling in off the sea, there was little fear of sameness. The current view is taken from a slightly different angle the the NGI painting and shows a closer view of the grove of trees. The contours of the ploughed upland, which is set further off in the distance, provide a well defined balance to the painting. In both works, the edge of the wood runs down to a hedgerow, which acts a subtle demarcation in setting the dept and perspective of the composition.

The atmospheric sky, confidently painted in broad strokes of the brush, casts a soft glow on the white patches of the cattle and throws a delicate light on the foreground grasses and the ploughed fields beyond. In common with Pastures at Malahide, the outline of the trees is repeated in the clouds, which float above them; a classical technique which indicates Hone’s formal training. He captures the pose and shape of the cattle with nothing more than a few delicately placed blobs of paint. No attempt is made to depict detail, which is testament to the skill and mastery Hone had developed by this time.

Further details - Nathaniel Hone.

We have fine paintings by Walter Osborne and Roderic O'Conor for sale. Contact dominic@mpfa.ie for details.

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