Ben Dunne sells art collection featuring high-profile Lavery paintings


Ben Dunne and his wife Mary are selling part of their personal art collection in an exhibition that is expected to generate millions in sales.

The Mary and Ben Dunne Collection, comprising 39 paintings, will be on display at Gormleys in Dublin from September 8-22, before moving to Belfast for two weeks.

Among the collection is Sir John Lavery’s Sketch For Pro-Cathedral, Dublin 1922 – the painting of Michael Collins’ funeral.

Mr Dunne, 73, who runs a chain of six gymnasiums in Dublin, Meath and Laois, said: ‘We are at a stage where we are downsizing and we don’t have the space to display the full collection, so we are happy to bring some of it to the exhibition and sale.

The collection includes works by Irish artists such as Jack B Yeats, John Lavery, Roderic O’Conor, Mary Swanzy and Walter Osborne, some valued at up to €1 million.

Two works which experts say will attract huge interest from collectors were inspired by landmark events in Ireland in the 20th century – the Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park in 1920 and the 1922 funeral of revolutionary hero Collins.

Art expert Mark Adams said: “A great collection is more than a group of images – it’s a work of art in its own right in which the artworks within it, and the conversation between they become more than the sum of their parts.

“Using their own brilliant eye for a painting and seeking the guidance of the late Alan Hobart, Ben and Mary Dunne have formed a collection that captures Ireland in all its endless facets.”

Yeats’s Singing The Dark Rosaleen (1921) will retail for around $1 million and depicts an impromptu rendition of the patriotic poem My Dark Rosaleen by two middle-aged men and a violin player amidst the crowd at Croke Park.

The painting is a moving response to events at the GAA headquarters a year earlier, when 13 spectators and Tipperary right-back and captain Michael Hogan were gunned down in the stadium by RIC auxiliaries.

In Sketch For Pro-Cathedral, Dublin 1922, Belfast-born Lavery captured his view of Collins’ memorial service from his vantage point on the Pro-Cathedral’s organ balcony.

His epic work – one of three featured in the Dunnes’ collection – is widely believed to be an authentic snapshot of the funeral and was painted during the service.

A strong piece by painter Roscommon O’Conor is also expected to pique the interest of potential buyers, while Dublin landscape artist Swanzy is displaying two paintings.

Born in 1882, she was known for her wide range of styles, and Houses On A Mountainous Landscape (c. 1920) testifies to her early interest in modernism.

In The Viaduct (c. 1930), described by experts as a “light and airy Cubist” work, she adopts a low point of view to create a powerful relationship between the architecture of the painting and the viewer.

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