Sotheby’s: 11 September 2018

John Luke Pax 1943 tempera and oil on board

Sotheby’s September sale features a number of high-quality works from the collection of Joseph and Brenda Calihan. The Calihans were a wealthy Irish-American family whose ambition was to put together a collection that comprised the finest examples of work by major Irish artists that they could acquire, works that were worthy to hang in museums. The two Jack B Yeats paintings on offer, certainly fit this criterion. Sunday Evening in September (St Stephen’s Green) was painted in 1949 and the figures depicted have the ectoplasmic feel of his late expressionistic style. It was works like this that inspired Beckett to say of Yeats that ‘he brings light to the issueless predicament of existence’. This work is guiding at £300/500,000. The second work, The Circus, is dated 1921 when Yeats painted in a more realistic, graphic style. The circus was a fashionable subject for artists in those days and Yeats would have seen works on the same theme by Degas, Manet and Seurat. This has a guide price of £200/300,000. The Calihans were not afraid to make less conventional choices. This is demonstrated in Beatrice Campbell, Lady Glenavy’s playful oil The Intruder and in John Luke’s Pax an idyll in egg tempera. Both these works depict highly-coloured, artificial worlds although I suspect the blameless boating couple in Luke’s work would be shocked by the carry on in Lady Glenavy’s Arcadian revel. Pax is guiding at £80/120,000 and The Intruder at £40/60,000. There are two more traditional pieces on offer, a Gerard Dillon showing men going about their business in a seaside town (The Lobster Pots, Roundstone £60/80,000) and Richard Thomas Moynan’s work showing urban children at play (Ball in the Cap £100/150,000). The final piece on offer from this top-quality selection is Daniel Maclise’s The Ballad Seller (£30/50,000) – a lushly-colored and bucolic piece where the woman’s cheeks are as pink and plump as the apples she is carrying.