Auction Report: Camille Souter at Adam’s

CAMILLE SOUTER HRHA (b.1929) CALARY BOG 1958 mixed media 44x59cm

CAMILLE SOUTER HRHA (b.1929) CALARY BOG 1958 mixed media 44x59cm

CAMILLE SOUTER HRHA THE HOUSE AT DALKEY 1972, oil on paper 57x57cm

CAMILLE SOUTER HRHA THE HOUSE AT DALKEY 1972, oil on paper 57x57cm

In 1962 Camille Souter and her family moved to Calary Bog, County Wicklow, an area far more remote at the time than is now the case. Isolation has always been important to this artist for whom the phrase ‘backing into the limelight’ might have been coined. It was while in Calary that Souter started to move away from her earlier abstraction to a more representative style. However Garrett Cormican in his magisterial 2006 monograph cautions against treating such a shift as too absolute, noting ‘The subject of her paintings from the 1950s might have been difficult to recognize without the assistance of the artist or the aid of titles, but this also applies to several other of her paintings right up to the present. Souter finds it meaningless to distinguish between abstraction and realism.’ Nevertheless, titles can be helpful with pre-1960s work, such as one of two paintings included in the Adam’s sale of Irish art in early December. The lot in question dates from 1958 and is called Calary Bog, thereby indicating this part of the country had caught Souter’s attention some years before she settled there. More important, the picture is quite different from the images of Calary that she would go on to produce such as Calary When We Came Back and Going Up to Calary (both 1964) in which what might be called topographical markers are apparent. By the mid-1960s, The Irish Times critic Brian Fallon considered she had ‘gradually developed a sure sense of form and kept her spontaneity.’ On the other hand the 1958 picture, a Pollock-like mixed-media work in shades of pink and blue and brown, reveals a different kind of form and spontaneity, more a response than a representation to what Souter saw. It made an interesting contrast to the next lot, also by the artist, which dates from 1972 and clearly shows its subject, The House at Dalkey in which her familiar colours of green and yellow come to the fore. This second picture fetched €13,000, a figure within its pre-sale estimate but the earlier painting, which had been expected to go for €4,000-€6,000 then did better than thought, going for the same amount, €13,000.

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