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    Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

    An exceptional painting by Henri Matisse, which has emerged after 85 years in a private collection, is among the highlights at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern and Surreal Art evening sales in London on February 3.  Highlights from these sales will preview in Hong Kong from January 5-8.  Matisse’s La Lecon de piano combines two of the artist’s passions, music and art. Painted in 1923 this fine interior composition is from his early Nice period when he produced some of his boldest and most life affirming works.  It is estimated at £12-18 million.

    There is a rare example of one of Francis Picabia’s machinist compositions from his DADA period. Le Ventilateur was painted in 1917 and is estimated at £1.8-2.5 million.

    The year 2015 was a record one for Sotheby’s sales of Impressionist & Modern Art worldwide. Sales achieved a grand total of US$1.72 billion – the highest annual figure for the company in this category.

    Henri Matisse - La lecon de piano.

    Henri Matisse – La lecon de piano.  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £10.8 MILLION

    Francis Picabia - Le Ventilateur

    Francis Picabia – Le Ventilateur  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £2.3 MILLION


    Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

    An exhibition by Cuban born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) has taken to the streets of Dublin.  The artist wanted “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991 installed in a variety of locations in diverse neighbourhoods. So from now until December 30 it is on view  on six billboards across six sites within Dublin city centre normally used for prime advertising space. The art is on billboards at Usher’s Island, Dublin 8; Townsend St., Dublin 2; Pearse St., Dublin 2; East Wall Road (Dublin 3); Talbot St., Dublin 1 and Parnell St., Dublin 1.

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ artworks are known for their quiet, simple forms and minimal aesthetic. The artwork “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, is made by reproducing a specific colour image of denim fabric, a photograph by Gonzalez-Torres, exclusively as billboards. The work is intentionally open to interpretation and driven by viewer interaction.  It is part of the exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now at IMMA until February 7, 2016. The show features modern and contemporary masterworks from the world’s leading collections by Brancusi, Dalí, Duchamp Ernst, Giacometti, Oppenheim, Picasso, Warhol, Yoko Ono, and more.

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, Billboard, Dimensions vary with installation’

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, Billboard, Dimensions vary with installation’

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, Billboard, Dimensions vary with installation’

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, Billboard, Dimensions vary with installation’


    Friday, December 18th, 2015
    Sean McSweeney

    Sean McSweeney

    Sean McSweeney, the featured artist at the Taylor Galleries annual Winter Group Show in Dublin, celebrates his 80th birthday this month.  The exhibition showcases work by McSweeney and invited artists.  Born in Dublin in 1935 and self-taught as a painter his work has long been rooted in the tradition of Irish landscape painting that stretches back to the 1800’s and beyond. Consistently drawn to the characteristic “horizontality” of the bogland, sea fields and flat expanses of shoreline that surround his home on the Sligo coast, he returns repeatedly to the same subjects, painting them in various lights and through changing seasons.  His work featured in the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1962. Cecil King saw his work and recommended him to Leo Smith at the Dawson Gallery. He had his first solo show with the Dawson Gallery in 1965 and has been represented by Taylor Galleries since its establishment in 1978. Sean McSweeney has exhibited extensively in Ireland and abroad and is an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and a member of Aosdána. His work is represented in major public and corporate collections nationwide as well as private collections in Ireland, the UK, Europe and North America.   The exhibition at Taylor runs until January 30, 2016.


    Friday, December 11th, 2015

    The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer 1896 (£100,000-200,000).  UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    The Pre-Raphaelite archive of Robert Catterson-Smith (1853-1938),  the Irish artist who worked alongside William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in the 1890’s, comes up at Sotheby’s in London on December 15.  It comprises 48 lots of illustrations, photographs, letters and even a lock of William Morris’s hair.  The archive offers a rich insight into Catterson-Smith’s prominent, but frequently overlooked, role in the production of the Kelmscott Chaucer, considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of the printed press. Employed to assist with the preparation of Edward Burne-Jones’s celebrated illustrations for books produced by the Kelmscott Press, William Morris’s private publishing house established with the aim of reviving the traditional technique of hand-printing, Catterson-Smith worked on preparations for The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, later described by W.B. Yeats as “the most beautiful of all printed books”. Then a relatively unknown artist, he worked from photographs of Burne-Jones’s delicate illustrations, tracing over and embellishing them, in order to make them conform to the thick, medieval wood-cut style designs Morris envisaged for his books.

    Morris never publically acknowledged Catterson-Smith’s role. A controversy began in 1898, when an anonymous contributor to the London Daily Chronicle suggested that Morris had been unfair and dishonest. Another commentator even went so far as to claim that, in his old age, Burne-Jones’s hands were too unsteady to properly execute the drawings, and that Catterson-Smith in fact redrawn them all.  Years later, a much agitated May Morris sought reassurance that Burne-Jones was the proper artist to credit and that her father had not been unjust, but she received only half-assurances. An examination of this archive invites us to reassess our understanding of the Pre-Raphaelite’s working practices as they embraced photography and new techniques, apparently in contravention of their purist doctrines.

    Catterson-Smith went on to become the Headmaster of the Birmingham School of Art during the peak of its reputation as one of the world’s leading Arts & Crafts centres. Aside from this collection, he has left behind a unique legacy in London: when working as an apprentice in a sculptor’s studio he was chosen as the model for the hands of Prince Albert, and they can still be found on the famous memorial in Kensington Gardens today rendered in gilt bronze.  Born in Dublin he was the son of Stephen Catterson Smith (1806-72), portrait painter and President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. Robert studied at the Royal Hibernian Academy and Dublin School of Art where he became an assistant teacher.  He moved to London in 1874.

    Illustrative material relating to The Well at the World's End (£2,000-3,000).

    Illustrative material relating to The Well at the World’s End (£2,000-3,000).  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £6,875

    Illustrative material relating to The Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford (£800-1,200).

    Illustrative material relating to The Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford (£800-1,200).  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £2,750

    The Frankeleyens Tale (4,000-6,000).

    Illustrative material relating to the The Frankeleyns Tale (£4,000-6,000)  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £8,750.


    Thursday, December 10th, 2015
    This pietre dure table top sold for a record £3.5 million.

    This pietre dure table top sold for a record £3.5 million.

    A world record price for a hard stone inlaid table top was established at Sotheby’s in London today when the Grimani table top sold for £3,509,000.  There were two.  Made in Florence circa 1600-1620 and with a  provenance that is fully documented since 1623 the first sold for  £3,509,000. Five bidders competed in a 10-minute bidding battle.  The high estimate was £600,000. It is thought that this pietre dure top with the arms and symbols of the Grimani Family was probably a gift from a member of the Medici family.

    No fewer than four bidders vied for the second table top which sold to a private collector for £1,625,000  – the second highest price for an inlaid Roman table top sold at auction with a top estimate of £500,000. From the last quarter of the 16th century it was purchased by or given to a member of the Grimani family, in all likelihood Doge Marino Grimani (1532 – 1605) whilst in Rome in 1585 and 1592.


    Thursday, December 10th, 2015
    The Lock at Sotheby's

    The Lock at Sotheby’s

    The Lock, one of John Constable’s most famous compositions sold for £9,109,000 at Sotheby’s London last night.  It was painted c1824-25. The monumental landscape depicting the countryside of the painter’s “careless boyhood” was the highlight of the Old Master & British Paintings evening sale.  It was retained by the artist in his studio until the end of his life. The auction totalled £22.6 million.

    Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department said: The Lock belongs to a small group of pictures that define Constable’s oeuvre and genius. The artist’s absolute mastery as a landscape painter is everywhere in the picture and this was reflected in the result achieved tonight. The painting was one of many museum-quality works presented in the sale, an unprecedented proportion of which were from private collections and came to the market for the first time in several generations. The combination of quality and freshness to the market are key in this field and certainly account for this evening’s strong results.”

    As of last night Sotheby’s has sold $237,619,514 worth of Old Master and British Paintings worldwide in 2015.

    (See post on for  September 26, 2015).


    Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

    A collection of stained glass window designs by Richard King will come up at Fonsie Mealy’s sale of rare books, manuscripts and watercolours in Dublin on December 15.  Four coloured drawings, each measuring 105″ x 21″. were designed for St. Columba’s Church in Perth, Western Australia.  They are each estimated at 3,000-4,000. In addition there is a design for the War Memorial Chapel at Hawthorne, Western Australia entitled God the Father (2,000-3,000); Child of Eire designed for UCD (1,750-2,500) and a Nativity watercolour (1,500-2,000).

    After studies at the Dublin Metropolital School of Art Richard King joined the Harry Clarke studios in 1928. Clarke died in 1931 and in 1935 King became manager of the studio.  He set up on his own in 1940, working in stained glass and graphic design. His windows can be found in various locations in Ireland, at Boston College, Massachusetts and in Western Australia.

    UPDATE: The four coloured drawings sold at hammer respectively for 2,700, 2550,  2,500 and 2,700. God the Father made 2,100 and Child of Eire sold for 4,800.  The nativity watercolour sold for 2,100.

    (See post on for November 9, 2015).





    Richard King - THE HOLY FAMILY, St. Joseph with Mary and the child Jesus. Full size original coloured drawing (or cartoon) for a stained glass window, gouache on paper, approx 105 ins x 21 ins, the colouring fresh and unfaded. Lower panel shows St. Joseph leading Mary on the donkey

    Richard King – THE HOLY FAMILY, St. Joseph with Mary and the child Jesus. Full size original coloured drawing (or cartoon) for a stained glass window, gouache on paper, approx 105 ins x 21 ins, the colouring fresh and unfaded. Lower panel shows St. Joseph leading Mary on the donkey.  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR 2,550 AT HAMMER


    Monday, December 7th, 2015
    Convad by Dan O'Neill sold for 15,000 at hammer.

    Convad by Dan O’Neill sold for 15,000 at hammer.

    A Yeats at 210,000 and a Henry at 97,000 helped to make for another great night for Irish art sales in Dublin this evening.  These prices at Morgan O’Driscoll’s Irish and International art auction are hammer, to which fees and commissions amounting to just under 25% will be added.  They continue the trend established at last weeks Irish art sales in Dublin, which were notable for competitive bidding and a number of above estimate prices.  This is in sharp contrast to the situation in latter years and shows that the recovery in prices in the market for Irish art is now well and truly established.  One work by Michael Flatley sold for 34,000, the second was passed. Each one had been estimated at 30,000-50,000.  Dan O’Neill’s Convad made 15,000 at hammer.  Other prices included St. George’s Market, Belfast by Markey Robinson (14,000), Glacier III by Barrie Cooke (7,600), White Scarecrow and Clown by John Shinnors (11,000), Grid by John Kingerlee (6,000), Second Version of Painting 1946 (1971), a lithograph by Francis Bacon (7,500),  Whispering leaves and wandering sheep by Joseph Malachy Kavanagh (8,500), Tarring the Shed by Nano Reid (11,500), Being 1997 by Louis le Brocquy (13,000) and Barn, West of Ireland by Donald Teskey (9,000).

    (See post on for December 4, 2015).


    Monday, December 7th, 2015
    The gilt bronze lifetime bust of George Washington.

    The gilt bronze lifetime bust of George Washington.  UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    A lifetime portrait bust of George Washington comes up at Sotheby’s in London on December 10.  The gilt-bronze sculpture is from the celebrated Royal Laboratory established by King Charles III of Spain in Madrid in 1759. Dating to the 1790s, the bust was commissioned to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of San Lorenzo with the United States, which declared a state of mutual friendship between the two nations.  It is thought to be based on a painting by Guiseppe Perovani commissioned by the Spanish charge d’affaires in Philadephia and gifted to Prime Minister Manuel Godoy in 1796.

    Christopher Mason, Sotheby’s Old Master Sculpture Specialist, said: “The modelling and execution is of the highest quality and the identity of the sitter is unmistakable. Washington is Presidential in his demeanor, the sharpness of the bronze casting seemingly reflecting the Enlightenment values of this victorious democratic leader.”

    Estimated at £200,000-300,000 it will come up at Sotheby’s sale of Old Master Sculpture and works of art.


    Friday, December 4th, 2015

    Fine works by Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry are included in Morgan O’Driscoll‘s sale Irish and International art auction at the RDS on December 7.  In the wake of successful sales of Irish art in Dublin already this week there is anticipation around this sale which is headed by a 1949 Jack B. Yeats entitled Business. Estimated at 200,000-300,000 this work was once in the Jefferson Smurfit collection.  Morgan O’Driscoll has just completed a viewing for this sale in London. The catalogue is online. Here is a small selection:

    Paul Henry RHA (1876-1958) Killary Bay, Connemara (80,000-120,000).

    Paul Henry RHA (1876-1958) Killary Bay, Connemara (80,000-120,000).  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR 97,000 AT HAMMER

    Business by Jack Butler Yeats (200,000-300,000).

    Business by Jack Butler Yeats (200,000-300,000).  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR 210,000 AT HAMMER.

    John Shinnors (b.1950) White Scarecrow and Clown (12,000-16,000).

    John Shinnors (b.1950) White Scarecrow and Clown (12,000-16,000).  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR 11,000 AT HAMMER

     Gwen O'Dowd - Spaces 32 (2005) (1,500-2,500).

    Gwen O’Dowd – Spaces 32 (2005) (1,500-2,500). UPDATE: THIS MADE 1,500 AT HAMMER

    John Noel Smith - Untitled Field Painting (2007) (6,000-9,000).

    John Noel Smith – Untitled Field Painting (2007) (6,000-9,000).  UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    Tony O'Malley HRHA (1913-2003) Still Life on Piazza Studio (1962) (12,000-16,000).

    Tony O’Malley HRHA (1913-2003) Still Life on Piazza Studio (1962) (12,000-16,000). UPDATE: THIS WAS BID TO 11,000 AND THEN PASSED