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Annes Grove from the past to the present

Following its recent transfer to the care of the OPW, Peter Murray traces the history of Annes Grove in North Cork which will open to the public later this summer

In 1611, when James I confirmed the rights of Anglo-Norman grandee David Lord Roche, Viscount Fermoy, to ownership of extensive lands in North Cork, a tract of fertile grassland known as Ballyhimmock was included in this grant. Ballyhimmock, the ‘townland of the colts’, is located a mile north of Castletownroche, midway along the road that runs parallel to the Blackwater River, linking Fermoy and Mallow. However, Roche was not destined to enjoy his properties for long. Barely fifteen years later, reduced to poverty through the machinations of his implacable enemy Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, Roche was forced to sell Ballyhimmock. Amounting to over four hundred acres on the banks of the river Awbeg, the estate was acquired by William Grove. Originally from Middlesex, the Grove family had lived for a time near Doneraile before moving to Ballyhimmock where they built extensive coach yards, stables, barns and an oval stone midden, original 17th-century features that still survive today, tucked in behind the Georgian house. In due course, the Groves also built the present house; the front façade and some internal details, notably the staircase, date to around 1720. In 1766, the heiress Mary Grove married Francis Charles Annesley, later 1st Earl Annesley, and over the following years, while they lived at Castlewellan, Co Down, their Cork estate – now known as Annes Grove – was rented to Richard and Anne Aldworth, who carried out improvements to both farm and garden. Lime kilns and local limestone provided both fertiliser and building materials. In 1792, the eighteen-year-old Arthur Annesley, nephew of Francis, inherited Annes Grove, on condition that he add his aunt Mary’s surname to his own. Over the ensuing decades he and his wife Elizabeth carried out extensive alterations to the house, and raised no less than six sons and eight daughters, being obliged to convert the attic storey into a giant nursery. After inheriting in 1849, the second of these offspring, Richard Grove Annesley (1815-1892), and his wife Sara Bolster continued the building work, adding elaborate plasterwork cornices and centrepieces to ceilings, and replacing nearly all joinery, including doors, bookcases and window cases. Some sections of early 18th-century panelling survive, along with the original staircase, but the interior of the house is mainly early Victorian in style. During these renovations, original furniture was dispersed amongst the many children, with pieces ending up in different families, including the Acton family in Wicklow. A new avenue at Annes Grove was built – disturbing a pre-historic cist grave at a site known as the ‘Killeen’ – and a massive gate lodge in the Gothick style, designed by Benjamin Woodward in 1854, announced the presence of garden and demesne to travellers.

In 1892, Richard Arthur Grove Annesley, then just twelve years old, inherited Annes Grove. When he and Hilda Phillips (née Macnaghten) married in 1907, they began another ambitious programme of restoration, creating a romantic garden extending over thirty acres (Figs 2&5). Companies of soldiers from Fermoy barracks were employed to replant and landscape. A flower garden was created within the old walled orchard. Waterways that had become choked with weeds were cleared and planted with lilies; pathways were embellished with exotic plants, while rustic bridges were built onto the ornamental island on the Awbeg (Fig 2). Summerhouses, sundials and bird feeders provided focal points, as did a shallow well, traditionally associated with the poet and military strategist Edmund Spenser, who lived nearby, at Kilcolman Castle, in the 17th century.

As one of the sponsors of Frank Kingdon-Ward’s horticultural expeditions to Tibet, Burma and Nepal in the 1920s, Annesley received many seeds, particularly of rhododendrons, which he planted mainly along the avenue to the gate lodge. The landscaping and planting style was up-to-the-minute, and followed the precepts of William Robinson, the landscape designer who began his career as garden boy at Curraghmore in County Waterford, and who, along with Gertrude Jekyll, championed a more naturalistic approach, eschewing the formal flowerbeds so beloved of Victorian gardens.

The plantings at Annes Grove closely echo those carried out at Garinish Island and Fota during those same years, and there was much exchanging of plants and seeds between the Annesleys, the Smith-Barrys at Fota and Annan Bryce on Garinish Island

Annes Grove attracted many scientifically-minded people; while employed at Regent’s Park botanic garden in London, William Robinson had enrolled in the ‘Working Men’s College’, where John Ruskin was a tutor. Charles Darwin sponsored Robinson’s membership of the Linnean Society, while his key supporter in Ireland was David Moore, curator at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Moore’s son, Sir Frederick Moore, continued the connection, providing advice to the Annesleys as work progressed. The plantings at Annes Grove closely echo those carried out at Garinish Island and Fota during those same years, and there was much exchanging of plants and seeds between the Annesleys, the Smith-Barrys at Fota and Annan Bryce on Garinish Island. Christabel Macnaghten, cousin of Richard Arthur’s wife, was married to Henry Duncan McLaren, Lord Aberconway, who visited Annes Grove. As well as being a sponsor of Kingdon-Ward, Aberconway was chairman of John Brown & Company, the shipbuilding firm that built the Lusitania. Robinsonian in style, his gardens at Bodnant in Wales were gifted to the UK National Trust in 1949. Richard was also a close friend of the 4th Marquis of Headfort, who, in 1900, in the face of great opposition, had married the Tipperary-born chorus girl Rosie Boote – connections and friendships that are intimated in the beguiling charm of these gardens. At Headfort, the aptly named Ghost tree Davidia involucrata flowers briefly once a year, its large white flowers fluttering like handkerchiefs, while the Spur Leaf tree, also brought from China, is the only example of its kind in Ireland. At Annes Grove, where there are also Davidia trees, a Himalayan Weeping Juniper – Juniperus recurva vercoxii ‘Castlewellan’ – was a gift from the Annesleys of County Down, while the ‘Judas’ tree, Cercis siliquastrum, according to Annesley family lore, only produced its intense pink flowers on Good Friday. A vanilla tree from Madagascar added an exotic aroma when the sun shone, while the flowering shrubs and trees included eucryphia, embothriums, myrtuses and magnolias. Two species of Horeria, or New Zealand lacebarks, Hoheria sexstylosa and Hoheria populnea, have cross-pollinated at Annes Grove, their white-flowering shrubs proliferating like weeds throughout the gardens. The paths by the river are lined with pink and white spiraeas, while palm trees and bamboos are planted with alders and ash, creating a wonderful mix of exotic and native species. The glory of this was recognised in 1942 when Annes Grove won an award at the Horticultural Society of Ireland’s autumn show. Although the bamboos died away in the 1980s, as did many throughout the world, this opened new vistas in the gardens.

The plantings at Annes Grove closely echo those carried out at Garinish Island and Fota during those same years, and there was much exchanging of plants and seeds

Richard Arthur lived on to 1966, dying at the age of eighty-seven. A traditional sundial inscription, translated into Gaelic and carved on a sundial at Annes Grove, sums up his philosophy: ‘ní áirmim ach na h-uaire grianmara’…. (I remember only the sunny hours). Not all his hours had been sunny. His opposition to the marriage of his older son meant that Annes Grove was inherited by his younger son, Patrick (b. 1911). In the course of time, Patrick’s son, Patrick Annesley (b. 1943), married Jane Holder, and in 1978 they opened the gardens to the public. In 2016, a decision made a decade earlier to gift the house and gardens to the Irish State was finally realised. In January of that year, the keys were handed over to Simon Harris, Minister for State, representing the Office of Public Works. Under the care of the OPW, both house and gardens are now undergoing an extensive programme of restoration, in readiness for re-opening to the public this summer. The front façade has been re-rendered and painted a faded peach colour. New black-painted railings flank the entrance steps, while the glazed front porch, a later addition to the Georgian façade, has been carefully restored. The Actinidia chinesis vine, with its heart-shaped leaves, planted by Patrick’s grandfather Richard, has been stripped from the façade of the house, along with evergreen Euonymus fortunei. Some trees that concealed an ugly 20th-century extension to the house have been removed; but the extension remains. The ornamental gate lodge, designed by Benjamin Woodward in 1854, is now managed by the Landmark Trust, while the family have retained a house on the estate for their own use. Recent storms and hurricane-force winds felled some of the garden’s finest trees, but the future for Annes Grove, in contrast to many other endangered heritage houses and gardens in Ireland, is assured.

The author acknowledges with thanks the assistance of Patrick Grove Annesley, and also of Cressida Grove Annesley, in the writing of this article.
Peter Murray has published widely on Irish art and architecture.

The Life and Work of John ffrench, Irish Ceramic Artist (1928-2010)

The Life and Work of John ffrench, Irish Ceramic Artist (1928-2010)
Peter Lamb
Gandon Editions, Kinsale, 2017
pp 336 fully illustrated h/b
€25.00 ISBN 978-1-910140-08-6
Eleanor Flegg

The patchy mosaic of Irish ceramic history has many missing parts. Sometimes this is because there wasn’t a lot going on. More often it’s for lack of published research. If a student went searching, for example, for material on John ffrench’s sojourn at Arklow Studio Pottery they’d be left scratching their heads. All the more welcome, then, when someone steps in to fill the gap. Peter Lamb’s The Life and Work of John ffrench, Irish Ceramic Artist (1928-2010) fills several.

This is a thorough study, a comprehensive artistic biography, approached from the perspective of a collector and a connoisseur. It will be of interest to those who love John ffrench’s work, but also to those in search of a broader scope on Irish ceramic history of the period.

John ffrench was a ceramic artist before it was even known that such a thing as ceramic art existed and his work did certainly not belong to the Leachian school that came to dominate these islands. He was eclectic in his influences, extraordinary in his use of colour, prolific, and playful in design. Most of his influences were not Irish. As a young man, John ffrench travelled and worked in Italy, Iceland and India. Many of his colours and forms took shape in these early years and persisted in a body of work that, although it evolved, had an extraordinary consistency. John ffrench’s work was radically different to anything else made in the country at the time. For this reason, it’s easy to think of ffrench as an anomaly; a rare and precious one-off. Lamb’s book establishes a context for his work, both in the early years when he worked with Peter Brennan in Kilkenny (the divergence of their work became more obvious after the 1950s), and in the seven years that he worked at Arklow Studio Pottery in the 1960s. John ffrench’s work, and that of his apprentices at the pottery, was bought, sold, exhibited and otherwise consumed in Ireland. It was never mainstream, but neither was it niche.

Many of his colours and forms took shape in these early years and persisted in a body of work that, although it evolved, had an extraordinary consistency

Beautifully illustrated with the lavish use of colour that ffrench’s work demands, Lamb’s book reveals more about the artists’ work than the man behind it. Possibly, John ffrench was a very private man. If so, this is reflected in the writing, which follows a factual biographical outline but does not venture into interiority. The reader is left with a detailed awareness of his work, its influences and contexts, but John ffrench himself remains an enigma.

Eleanor Flegg is a writer and craft historian living in Dublin.

Compositions in space

Angela Griffith reflects on the multifaceted practice of Alex Pentek, whose work ranges from the solidity of public art to the floating paper sculpture currently on view at the RHA

As we drive on our national roads, walk in our municipal streets and parks, enter our civic buildings we will inevitably encounter public art. The primary purpose of public art, in an open, democratic country such as Ireland, is to aesthetically enhance our shared spaces and to reflect or challenge commonly held societal values and interests. The best of these works become established and cherished landmarks as they reflect, and become part of, our shared heritage. They enrich our lives by allowing us, for what might only be a brief moment, to engage with something beyond our individual concerns. They remind us that we are part of something bigger. Public art can honour the individuals that we recognise as nation builders, commemorate events that defined who we were and who we are, and celebrates our wider cultural landscape. As public art reflects the mores of past and contemporary society, it also carries the burden of representing these same ideals to future generations and retaining its relevance.

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Genius loci

Is there a School of Limerick? Niamh NicGhabhann considers the question on the eve of Charles Harper’s retrospective at the RHA

Limerick is a complicated place – a city of fine-boned fanlights set in red brick frames, angular spires outlined against grey skies, and overgrown bow lanes; a city that sounds like hooves hammering on tarmac, and oars cutting through water. Whittled down to two images, the city could be represented by the river and the grid, a constantly overlapping set of relationships between nature and structure. For anyone growing up among the visual art landscape of Limerick, these two images will also bring to mind the work of Charles Harper RHA – long oars crossing in an intricate pattern on a plane of rich colour, or a strange and intriguing series of near identical heads, formed from quick, economical paint strokes, arranged in a grid pattern. Born on Valentia Island in 1943, Harper’s body of work reflects both his individual negotiation of colour, structure and form in paint, as well as broader regional, national and international artistic developments. Throughout the profiles of Harper published during his career, his personal commitment to honing an aesthetic of ‘honesty’ in his work is repeated. In an interview with John Hutchinson published in The Irish Times in 1983, he stated that ‘good art is responding clearly, with vision, to your own self and environment’. In an earlier interview with Harriet Cooke in the same newspaper, published in 1972, Harper is quoted as saying that ‘I’m not someone who’s going to break any barriers, I simply want to be accurate – in painting and in relation to myself’.

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Spanish honour for George Campbell

George Campbell with his guitar (1970s). Photo Courtesy Karen Reihill

The University of Malaga has announced a research award in memory of the Irish artist George Campbell who lived for many years in the south of Spain. The inaugural award is worth €1,200 and will be awarded for original research in any field that promotes bilateral cultural relations between Spain and Ireland. The deadline for submissions is 24 May – details at www.uma.es/amzet/info/105267/premio-george-campbell.

George Campbell became infatuated with Spain in the early 1950s, long before the days of mass tourism. He, his wife Madge and fellow Belfast artist, Gerard Dillon, travelled down through the Continent in the spartan conditions of post-war third-class rail and found a haven in the fishing village of Petregalejo, just east of Malaga. Campbell’s talent as a painter, first displayed in a largely indifferent and impoverished wartime Belfast, flowered brilliantly among the Flamenco dancers and musicians, fishermen and matadors of Andalucia. Life was not easy. Sardines, bought for a few coins from the local boats, were not infrequent visitors to the dinner table. But Spain ignited his energy and imagination. His paintings encompassed the exuberant life around him – bullfights, religious processions, gypsies, market women and, time after time, the Flamenco dancers and guitarists. Campbell learned the language and became an accomplished guitar player.

In 1978 his long attachment to Spain was formally acknowledged by the Spanish Government with the award of Commander  with the Insignia and Privileges of the Order of the Merito Civile

Few people in the region had money to buy paintings so Campbell decided to  pursue his art in London. Five or six lean years were spent in London with annual pilgrimages to Spain. As his reputation grew sales increased mainly in galleries in Dublin, Belfast and Malaga. Most of the work displayed in a retrospective exhibition in Malaga in 2002 came from Spanish collectors. George Campbell finally settled in Dublin but continued to make frequent visits to Andalucia, to paint and rendezvous with old friends, most of them veterans of the struggle against Franco. His guitar accompanied him on every visit. In 1978 his long attachment to Spain was formally acknowledged by the Spanish Government with the award of Commander  with the Insignia and Privileges of the Order of the Merito Civile. This was a high honour but a quarter of a century after his sudden death in Dublin at the age of 62 he received another one of which, I believe, he would have been just as proud. The city council of Malaga ceremoniously marked his life and work in the region by naming a new roundabout on the road to Petregalejo ‘Glorieta Jorge Campbell’.

Wesley Boyd

Aosdána Membership

Rita Dufffy

Rita Duffy

These are anxious days for the seventeen artists who have been nominated for membership of Aosdána at their General Assembly in April; although there are only five vacancies in all disciplines this year. Of the seventeen, only five are in the Visual Arts category and they are Rita Duffy, Shane Cullen, Stephen Lawlor, Isabel Nolan and Tim O’Neill. All of these have stood for membership before although Rita Duffy did not contend last year – probably being too busy with her new exhibition at the Hunt Museum Oct/Nov 2017 (see the Irish Arts Review Autumn 2017).

Last year the Visual Artists polled well with the election of Niamh O’Malley, Anne Tallentire, Eddie Kennedy and the film maker Trish McAdam. The ‘visuals’ thus scored four out of the seven vacancies. This year looks strong in ‘literature’ with Mike McCormack and John McKenna contending again. The visual arts will be lucky to get two elected this year.

The good news about the nomination for election to Aosdána membership is that the AC appears to have delayed its plan to make some nominations itself. Certainly there is no mention of it this year which will obviously improve the mood of the annual Assembly compared to last year.

Many people believe that all Aosdána members are in receipt of the Cnuas, but this is not so. The Cnuas is paid only to about half the Aosdána members who have to show their total annual income is not more than one-and-a-half times the value of the Cnuas. That limit will soon be increased to €30,000 per annum.

Finally there is room to elect one more Saoi if the members feel like it. The current membership is made up of six ‘wise ones’ Seóirs e Bodley, George Morrison, Tom Murphy, Edna O’Brien, Camille Souter and Imogen Stuart. But it seems unlikely that there will be an election for an additional Saoi this year.

John Mulcahy is editor of the Irish Arts Review

The Irish Art Market

William Scott, Blue Still Life sold by Whyte’s on 29 May 2017 lot 58 for €450,000
Sir John Lavery, The Summit of the Jungfrau sold by Sotheby’s on 27 September 2017 lot 314 for £170,000
Paul Henry Ferriters Cove, Kerry sold by Bonhams on 14 June 2017 lot 33 for £160,000
Jack B Yeats, The Night Has Gone sold by de Veres on 21 November 2017 lot 46 for €255,000
Jack B Yeats, By Merrion Strand sold by Adam’s on 22 November 2017 lot 62 for €450,000

 

Indications are strong that the Celtic Phoenix is rising; however buyers are exercising discernment, writes John P O’Sullivan in his assessment of the Irish art market 2017

Wall of Light Pink Pink, a large (226x190cm) oil on aluminium painting by Sean Scully, was the most expensive work by an Irish artist sold at an Irish or English auction house in 2017. It realised £650,000 at Christie’s June auction in London. The next highest price was €450,000 for Jack B Yeats By Merrion Strand, at Adam’s which tied with the price achieved by William Scott’s Blue Still Life at Whyte’s in May. Although this figure represented a loss on the £390,000 (€542,100) hammer sum paid for the latter at Christie’s in 2007, it was nonetheless the highest price ever paid for a Scott in this country.

Records have been broken, and a number of apparently irrational hammer falls saw dizzying prices

An article in the Financial Times, in December 2017, declared that for the international art market ‘2017 had been a smash. Records have been broken, and a number of apparently irrational hammer falls saw dizzying prices.’ This was in contrast to a somewhat depressed 2016 on the international front. Our local scene, devoid of Russian oligarchs and Arab princes, had a good 2016 and the upward trend in Irish art prices at auction continued in 2017. While not many living artists (aside from Sean Scully, and to a more modest degree John Shinnors and Donald Teskey) are enjoying this trend, there is an increasingly positive response to quality work by both living and dead artists. The tendency for the market to be more discerning also continued. A name is not enough anymore, it has to be a good quality piece also. For example, the market was flooded with work by Basil Blackshaw in 2017, some of it was of inferior quality and many of these works went unsold.

All of our major auction houses confirm the overall upward trend. David Britton maintained that ‘Adam’s is having a very good year, nearly 40% up on last year, helped significantly by various collections that are fresh to the market, such as the Gillian Bowler Collection in May and the UTV Art Collection in September.’ The €35,000 for FE McWilliam’s Women of Belfast III from the UTV collection was the highest price paid at auction for a piece from that series. Adam’s November auction did particularly well with the aforementioned Jack B Yeats work, By Merrion Strand, selling for €450,000, a substantial €150,000 above its lower guide price. Another notable price achieved at this auction was the €100,000 for Mary Swanzy’s The Storm – fully €80,000 above its guide price. This very fine Cubist work came from the collection of the late P J Mara and was the highest price achieved by Swanzy at auction since 2006. Adam’s November sale also featured work from another collection, that of writer and broadcaster Eamonn Mallie. These included a number of paintings by Basil Blackshaw. The most notable of these was Night Rider which was estimated at €100,000 to €150,000 and achieved a hammer price of €90,000. This melodramatic work was inspired by Blackshaw’s love of cowboy films. Blackshaw’s Portrait of Jude, also from the Mallie Collection, was sold for €32,000. The collection also featured a painting of Van Morrison by Blackshaw which The Irish Times described as ‘the ugliest painting by any artist to appear at auction in quite some time’. A harsh judgement perhaps, considering the subject matter, but not surprisingly this ugly duckling failed to sell.

Similar positive sentiments about the market were expressed by Morgan O’Driscoll who felt that ‘the market in 2017 was much stronger than 2016’. His auctions achieved between 85% and 92% sales, with ‘good pieces making exceptional prices’. A notable work by Walter Osborne, Rags, Bones and Bottles sold for €120,000 at O’Driscoll’s November sale. This piece was originally sold by Adam’s for IR£17,000 in 1981. (It had also been offered unsuccessfully at Sotheby’s in 2007 for an ambitious £300,000 to £400,000). Of living artists O’Driscoll noted that ‘John Shinnors was selling much better’. The latter judgement was confirmed by Shinnors’ misnamed Slitty (should have been Stilly) Morning, Estuary which went for €38,000 at de Veres November auction. This was €13,000 more than the lower end of his guide price. A more abstract work by Shinnors, Morning Interior, sold for €20,000 (twice the lower end of the guide price) at the same auction. Shinnors also achieved a healthy €14,500 for the dramatic Scarecrow at de Veres September sale. This was guided at €6,000 to €9,000. Shinnors has cut back sharply on his output since a bad accident a couple of years ago so the auction houses are perhaps benefitting from this scarcity.

At Whyte’s, director Ian Whyte stated that ‘It’s been our best year since 2007. With over €6 million of Irish art sold in the last two weeks by the Irish and English auction houses. I think we can say that the Celtic Phoenix is well aflight.’ In addition to the William Scott sale, Whyte’s achieved a notable €140,000 for Louis le Brocquy’s Adam and Eve in the Garden and €130,000 for Paul Henry’s An Irish Bog. Whyte’s November sale featured a very unusual nude by Brigid Ganly. It was a rare Cubist work by an artist who was known for her representational style – building her career on conventional still lifes, portraits, and landscapes. Basil Blackshaw’s impressionistic Horses Exercising sold for €32,000 at the same auction, although a number of his more formal horse paintings went unsold.

While Scully and William Scott were again the most sought after artists at auction, many of the old reliables such as Paul Henry, John Lavery and Jack B Yeats continued to prosper

While Scully and William Scott were again the most sought after artists at auction, many of the old reliables such as Paul Henry, John Lavery and Jack B Yeats continued to prosper. Henry’s Kerry landscape Ferriter’s Cove went for a handsome £160,000 at Bonhams and his West of Ireland Bog for €100,000 at Whyte’s; Lavery made £170,000 at Sotheby’s September sale for Summit of the Jungfrau; and Yeats achieved £100,000 for Railway Refreshment Room again at Sotheby’s and €92,00 for Against the Stream at Whyte’s.

Gerard Dillon also continues to do well. His Potato Patch sold for £38,000 at Sotheby’s in September and a striking late period pierrot painting, The Artist in the Country, for €39,000 at Adam’s. Seán Keating also remains a reliable seller. His strange allegorical painting Homo Sapiens: An Allegory of Democracy went for €62,000. The highest price sculpture was FE McWilliam’s Man and Wife, which achieved €70,000 at Whyte’s, while Ronan Gillespie made £27,000 for Secret Lovers at Sotheby’s. The year was characterised by a flood of work from the recently deceased Basil Blackshaw. In addition to the aforementioned Eamonn Mallie collection, the artist’s daughter released a lot of work belonging to the family.  Elsewhere there were doubts expressed about the provenance of some of his work and the Gardaí were called in to investigate. However, in addition to his healthy sales at Adam’s his magnificent horse painting The Fall went for £130,000 at Sotheby’s and Jack’s House (Pink) yielded €27,500 at de Veres. Patrick Collins hasn’t been doing that well at auction in recent years, but he had a number of high-quality paintings on offer; and in keeping with the trend towards reward for quality he achieved €33,000 for Bath at Adam’s. A rare appearance by John Luke yielded £150,000 for Northern Rhythm at Sotheby’s, a seminal painting by an important artist. Another notable sale was the £46,000 for The End of the Modern World by William Crozier at Sotheby’s. This painting took its title from Anthony Cronin’s epic poem of the same name (his final publication before his death in December 2016). The painting was guided at £15,000 to £20,000 and the sale occurred before his much-lauded retrospective opened at IMMA – an event that’s bound to add further lustre to his reputation.

* All prices quoted in tables and this essay are hammer prices and do not include buyer’s premium.

Irish Top 10  
Jack B Yeats By Merrion Strand sold by Adam’s on 22 November 2017 lot 62 for €450,000
William Scott Blue Still Life sold by Whyte’s on 29 May 2017 lot 58 for €450,000
Jack B Yeats The Night Has Gone sold by de Veres on 21 November 2017 lot 46 for €255,000
William Scott Still Life with Eight Forms sold by de Veres on 21 May 2017 lot 161 for €195,000
William Scott Still Life sold by de Veres on 4 April 2017 lot 34 for €140,000
Paul Henry An Irish Bog sold by Whyte’s on 29 May 2017 lot 16 for €130,000
Walter Frederick Osborne Rags, Bones and Bottles sold by Morgan O’ Driscoll on 4 December 2017 lot 50 for €120,000
Mary Swanzy The Storm sold by Adam’s on 22 November 2017 lot 11 for €100,000
Paul Henry West of Ireland Bog sold by Whyte’s on 2 October 2017 lot 21 for €100,000
Jack B Yeats Against the Stream sold by Whyte’s on 2 October 2017 lot 29 for €92,000

Irish/UK Top 10
Sean Scully Wall of Light Pink Pink sold by Christie’s on 26 June 2017 lot 34 for £650,000
Sean Scully Iris sold by Christie’s on 22 November 2017 lot 20 for £480,000
Jack B Yeats By Merrion Strand sold by Adam’s on 22 November 2017 lot 62 for €450,000
William Scott Blue Still Life sold by Whyte’s on 29 May 2017 lot 58 for €450,000
Jack B Yeats The Night Has Gone sold by de Veres on 21 November 2017 lot 46 for €255,000
William Scott Four Forms, Blue on White sold by Christie’s on 22 November 2017 lot 14 for £210,000
William Scott Still Life with Eight Forms sold by de Veres on 21 May 2017 lot 161 for €195,000
John Lavery The Summit of the Jungfrau sold by Sotheby’s on 27 September 2017 lot 314 for £170,000
Jack B Yeats The Sunset Belongs to You sold by Sotheby’s on 27 September 2017 lot 205 for £170,000
Paul Henry Ferriter’s Cove, Kerry sold by Bonhams on 14 June 2017 lot 33 for £160,000

 

Elizabeth Cope: Seduced by the smell of paint

Elizabeth Cope: Seduced by the smell of paint
Sandra Gibson, Hilary Hope Guise, Claire Henry and
Niall MacMonagle
Gandon Editions
pp 192 fully illustrated h/b
€25.00 ISBN 978-1-910140-15-4
Alannah Hopkin

This magnificent monograph marks forty years of intense artistic activity on the part of Elizabeth Cope. Born in Kildare in 1952, Cope now lives near Paulstown, Co Kilkenny, in Shankill Castle, a stately home whose walls also serve as a gallery for the many works produced by this prolific and energetic artist.

This is a bigger than average Gandon monograph, with 153 full-size pages of colour reproductions, and a further 32 pages of text with colour illustrations. Both Hilary Hope Guise’s introduction and Sandra Gibson’s essay, ‘Living in a Gallery’, identify Cope as a painter committed to the motto carpe diem. ‘I paint through the chaos of everyday life. If I were to wait for a quiet moment I would never paint’ says Cope. An interview with Niall MacMonagle allows the artist to reminisce informally, starting with the moment as a nine-year-old when she was first ‘seduced by the smell of oil paint,’ as the subtitle recalls.

After two years at the NCAD, Cope studied for another five in London, and has travelled widely on residencies, including Central America and Somalia for Trócaire, and has averaged one solo show a year since 1979. Her work is colourful, confident and energetic, glorying in painterliness and colour. Guise compares Cope’s work to Vlaminck, Derain, Matisse and the Dutch Expressionist, Appel.

Her work is colourful, confident and energetic, glorying in painterliness and colour

Sandra Gibson’s longer essay opens with a quote from GK Chesterton: ‘There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect’. But having identified Cope’s intuitive approach to her art, Gibson then argues convincingly for the importance of the darker side of her work. This includes the famously graphic ‘menopause paintings’, and her frequent use of skeletons, both human and animal, indicating the big issue of death that stands in the midst of the light, colour and humour so characteristic of this most inventive of artist. This beautifully produced book is a credit to all who worked on it, and a fitting tribute to Cope’s life’s work.

Alannah Hopkin is a novelist, travel writer, and critic.

Embroidered Cloths

Christian Dupont compares two embroideries illustrating an enigmatic poem by WB Yeats from the collection of Burns Library at Boston College

From Sotheby’s Yeats Family Collection sale last September, we added a second embroidery executed by Lily Yeats illustrating her brother’s enigmatic poem The Players Ask for a Blessing on the Psalteries and Themselves to our own Yeats family and Cuala Industries collections in Burns Library.

WB Yeats wrote his choral invocation for Florence Farr, one of his early muses, on the eve of their joint performance at Clifford’s Inn on 10 June 1902. To introduce their ‘new art’ to London audiences, Farr would ‘lilt,’ or rhythmically declaim lyric verses to notes she plucked on a psaltery crafted for her by Arnold Dolmetsch. Yeats would then praise her subtle skill in a programmatic lecture titled ‘Speaking to the Psaltery,’ in which he explained that ‘poetry and not music is their object’ – neither plain chant nor recitation, but a new form of auditory poetics inspired by ancient bardic traditions.

Yeats arranged such commissions to supplement his sister’s income, as a thyroid condition sapped the energy she needed

At the time, the only visual image to stand in for the displacement of poetry from the page (‘I naturally dislike print and paper,’ Yeats ironically contended in the opening of his lecture) was Farr herself, with ‘a beautiful stringed instrument upon her knee.’ Decades later, however, some other inspiration led to the creation of not one, but two strikingly different interpretations of WB Yeats’ tribute to Farr in embroidered cloth. Both were designed by the painter Brigid O’Brien Ganly for Lily’s needle, and both incorporated Yeats’ verse visually – apparently the only times Lily would stitch words into her art needlework. In 1929, Yeats commissioned O’Brien to design Stations of the Cross for Lily to embroider on Irish silk poplin in a fashion reminiscent of the banners she helped the Dun Emer Guild create for Loughrea Cathedral at the turn of the century. In a similar style and probably around the same time, O’Brien also composed a grouping of three musicians playing lutes and lyres on an Irish hillside, the players wrapped in colourful cloaks and contemplative gazes, with the closing couplet of Yeats’ poem wrapped around them: ‘The proud and careless notes live on/But bless our hands that ebb away.’

Yeats arranged such commissions to supplement his sister’s income, as a thyroid condition sapped the energy she needed to supervise the embroidery section of Cuala Industries, forcing its closure in 1932.

Yet what inspired O’Brien to design a second, ‘blackwork’ version of the same couplet for Lily to embroider? The second composition places the three musicians on a Tuscan hillside, and the psaltery strummed by the central figure is clearly modelled on the one Dolmetsch designed for Farr, albeit upside down.

O’Brien spent much of 1933 in Italy, mainly Florence. Did she visit Yeats at Rapallo, or otherwise obtain his guidance? Was Yeats missing then his early muse, who had died during a self-imposed exile, of sorts, in Ceylon in 1917? Unlikely, perhaps, yet in the preface to his dramatic verse play, The King of the Great Clock Tower, printed by his other sister, Lolly, at the Cuala Press in 1934, Yeats recollected the aspirations that lay behind their collaborations. The proud and careless notes – the accidents of imperfect art – attain an incongruous immortality in Yeats’ poetic vision. So, too, the embroideries produced by fragile hands that would soon ebb away, but not before Yeats himself.

This is the fourth in a series of articles on Burns Library and its collections that attempts to provide context for appreciating the work of Irish artists and their reception in America.
Christian Dupont is Burns Librarian and Associate University Librarian for Special Collections at Boston College, Boston USA

 

Night and the city

Andy Sheridan’s nocturnal compositions of a city at rest joins the great tradition of the flâneur, writes Ros Kavanagh

The images are of a city lit by a brackish light at dusk, devoid of people. Rough brown shapes that loom around the street lamps are the husks of dwellings and workspaces, but not a soul is seen. It’s a lonely vista. Who is behind the camera? What is their relationship to this place?

The structured compositions by Andy Sheridan present Dublin as seen by a contemporary photographer flâneur. A ‘passionate spectator’, as Charles Baudelaire first imagined them, walking the city, chronicling its present. An amateur detective, as Walter Benjamin described, an investigator of the city.

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