New European audience for the giants of Irish art and literature


A celebration of Ireland in MAY by Sotheby’s in Paris will introduce Irish art to new European audiences and mark a significant centenary. bid on Ireland/France: art and literature opens next Monday. The online sale runs until May 16 and will be visible in the French capital from next Wednesday until this weekday.

The newly founded Irish state participated in a week-long international conference in Paris in 1922 titled the World Congress of the Irish Race. Irish politicians, diaspora delegates, writers, artists and musicians all showed up with the intention of promoting Ireland on the world stage and showcasing our artistic and cultural uniqueness. The auction, organized in addition to the annual sale of Irish art by Sotheby’s to be held in London next November, coincides with the centenary of this congress. In 1922, the capital of the art world at the time witnessed a major month-long exhibition of Irish art of 300 works at Galeries Barbazanges.

Jack B Yeats, A Sandhill near Tralee Bay at Sotheby’s in Paris.

Sotheby’s will take advantage of the opening to exhibit three works on loan from private collections. Two of them, The Rosary by Grace Henry and Market Day Mayo / The Long Car by Jack B Yeats, painted in 1910 and 1920 respectively, were exhibited at the Irish Art Exhibition at Galeries Barbazanges. The third, The Grez River Bridgewas painted by John Lavery in 1883.

Among the literary offerings are copies of Ulysses (first published in Paris in 1922) and Dubliners by James Joyce; Molloy, malone dies and the nameless by Samuel Becket and Stories of Red Hanrahan by William Butler Yeats. There is a death mask of James Joyce by Victor McCaughan.

William Scott - Bottle Still Life, 1958 at Sotheby's in Paris.
William Scott – Bottle Still Life, 1958 at Sotheby’s in Paris.

The Irish art offered at this auction spans different generations and styles. There are paintings by Jack B Yeats and Louis le Brocquy, Sir John Lavery and William Scott. Among our leading contemporary artists are sculptures by Dorothy Cross, Rowan Gillespie and Patrick O’Reilly with paintings by Hughie O’Donoghue and John Noel Smith. Cowherd a tree by West Cork Australian artist John Kelly is estimated between €24,000 and €35,000.

A 1937 French cafe scene by Harry Kernoff, Sunday Evening, Place du Combat, Parisis estimated between 40,000 and 60,000 €. Head of a Breton Boy, by Roderic O’Conor, dates from 1883 and is estimated between €60,000 and €80,000. Works by Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, Charles Lamb, Sean Keating, Sean O’Sullivan, Aloysius O’Kelly, Sean O’Sullivan, Sarah Purser, Mary Swanzy, William Orpen and Leo Whelan are also featured.

John Noel Smith- Multipolar (Tribute to HM) 2019 at Sotheby's in Paris.
John Noel Smith- Multipolar (Tribute to HM) 2019 at Sotheby’s in Paris.

Among the most expensive estimated lots are Rocks and foam, Saint Guénolé1883 by Roderic O’Conor (€300,000 – €500,000), A stranger by Sir John Lavery and Four-Pear by Roderic O’Conor estimated at €120,000-180,000 each and Statue of Fragonard, Grasse1920s by William Leech (€30,000 – €50,000).

There is plenty here to interest the French and Irish, including members of the Irish diaspora and descendants from around the world. The exhibition and sale are part of a wider program of international events paying tribute to this important centenary year, including Trinity College, Dublin; The Snite Museum of Art and the Keough-Naughton Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, USA, and the Center Culturel Irlandais, Paris.

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