Previews: Bonhams 20 November 2019

4 William Scott (1913-1989) Still Life with Fish 1955 oil on board 77.5x100.8cm

William Scott (1913-1989) Still Life with Fish 1955 oil on board 77.5×100.8cm

William Scott was a man who liked catching fish and eating them – especially mackerel and sardines. His son recalls him frying the fish he’d caught with the heads on in the French style while on holiday in Cornwall and Brittany. Scott himself has become one of the biggest fish in the market for Irish art and recent years have seen a steady rise in his popularity at auction. Bonhams have two works by him in its 20 November auction that should attract plenty of interest. Still Life with Fish was painted in 1955 and was bought by Cyril Mardell, a Finnish architect who settled in England. He was responsible for commissioning Scott to undertake his first large public artwork – a mural for the entrance hall of the Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. The painting contains the usual kitchen utensils (pots and pans) that we associate with Scott’s work with the addition of a fish frying basket. The fish’s head hangs over the table in the manner of Chardin – a particular favourite of Scott’s. The table is tilted upwards, distorting the perspective in characteristic Scott fashion. The guide price for this superior Scott is £70,000-£100,000.

A much smaller Scott painting, Two Forms, is guiding £15,000-£20,000. This was painted ten years after the fish painting and is a very contrasting work. It is rigorously minimal and abstract featuring two roughly geometric shapes – a white circle and a black inverted triangle against a grey background.

There are three good-quality Paul Henry paintings on offer with Bog Pool, guiding at £60,000-£80,000 the most significant. Elsewhere, there is an unusual Daniel O’Neill, Seated Nude, where the figure is shown in a prosaic domestic background rather than against some heroic landscape as is his wont. Colin Middleton is nothing if not unpredictable in terms of style and at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking Ardglass was a work by Jack B Yeats. However, this dark expressionistic painting was completed the year after the death of his long-ailing and dependent mother and, amongst the somber tones, the flashes of greens and yellow suggest feelings of liberation amidst the melancholy. This unusual Middleton is guiding £12,000 to £18,000.

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