Jack B Yeats (1871-1957)

Jack Yeats 1Jack Butler Yeats was born in London in 1871, the youngest son of Irish portraitist John Butler Yeats, and the brother of the Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats. He studied painting and drawing at the Westminster School of Art under Fred Brown, before leaving to work as a graphic artist, cartoonist, illustrator and water-colourist.

While he began using oils from about 1897, Yeats did not regularly produce oil paintings until 1905, preferring to work in watercolours. His early artworks were romantic depictions of landscapes and figures from the west of Ireland, particularly from his home in Sligo. He was influenced by the French Impressionist masters in the art collection of Sir Hugh Lane and began exhibiting at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1899.

After residing in London, he lived in Devon (England) for fourteen years, before moving to Greystones in county Wicklow. In 1917, he moved to Dublin. From around 1920, he developed a much more Expressionist style, moving from illustration to symbolism.

Jack Yeats 2

Sympathetic to but not active in the Irish Republican movement, he began to produce emotional, yet realistic, paintings of urban and rural life in Ireland. At the same time, he started using a wider and brighter range of colours – often applied very thickly with implements other than a paint-brush – along with free and loose brushstrokes. His compositions included genre paintings of circuses, music halls, and horse races, sombre landscapes of Ireland’s west coast, as well as scenes from Celtic mythology. In 1924, he was awarded the silver medal for painting at the Tailteann Games.

After the death of his wife in 1947, to whom he had been happily married since 1894, his work became increasingly nostalgic. Retrospective exhibitions of his paintings were held at the National Gallery, London, 1942, in Dublin 1945, in the London Tate Gallery 1948, while a showing of his last works was staged at the Waddington Galleries, London, in 1958.

Although some critics have dismissed Jack B Yeats’ artwork as irrelevant, an exhibition of his paintings at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, in 1971, revived his reputation as perhaps the most important modern painter in the history of Irish art. Jack B Yeats passed away in Dublin on March 28, 1957.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

francis-bacon-screaming-popeFrancis Bacon (1909-1992) was an Irish figurative painter, influenced in his earlier years by Picasso and surrealism, whose unique expressionist style of painting, which emerged during the 1950s, featured pictures of people screaming or in pain, often portrayed inside bathrooms or cages. His tortured, nightmarish imagery projected a world of violent and shocking humanity. His talent as a modern expressionist artist blossomed alongside a shambolic personal life, marked by extreme sensuality, gambling and alcoholism. Even so, he was one of the most famous figures in Irish painting and a unique figure in the history of Irish art.

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin. His parents were English and moved several times between England and Ireland. A shy asthmatic child with an effeminate manner, Bacon had little formal schooling, or instruction in either drawing or painting, being taught instead by private tutors. In his late teens, his effeminacy led to the beginning of a lifetime of gay encounters with rich men, many of whom would contribute financially to his career as a painter.

Bacon’s first artistic successes were as a designer of furniture, rugs and interiors, although he maintained his interest and activity in fine art, being particularly stimulated by Picasso’s Neo-Classical drawings as well as his paintings like Les Baigneuses and Le Baiser. In 1933 he achieved his first real sale when his oil painting Crucifixion (1933) was bought by Sir Michael Sadler. In 1934 Bacon staged his first solo exhibition – “Paintings by Francis Bacon” – at the new Transition gallery, displaying seven oils and half a dozen gouache compositions. For a while he painted comparatively little after his solo show in 1934, and destroyed many of the canvases he did complete during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Not until 1944 did be begin to paint intensively again.

The oil and pastel painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) heralds the beginning of his mature style and includes elements that he returned to many times, such as: the triptych format, the open mouth, and the distorted imagery. When first exhibited in 1945, the painting caused a sensation, and established Bacon among art critics as a major (if controversial) exponent of modern art. Bacon followed this with another masterpiece, Painting (1946).

Francis Bacon 2In 1949, Bacon’s series of six paintings (Head I to Head VI) were exhibited at what was, in effect, a one-man show at the Hanover Gallery. with Study from the Human Body (1949) and Study for Portrait (1949) formed the core of the show with four other paintings by Bacon. His first solo show outside Britain was held in 1953 at Durlacher Brothers, New York, and his first retrospective was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1955.

Another landmark painting was his Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) which is a distorted version of the Portrait of Innocent X (1650, Doria Pamphili Gallery, Rome) painted by Diego Velazquez. The painting is one of 45 variations of the Velazquez picture which Bacon executed throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. When quizzed as to his interest in the subject, Bacon said he merely wanted an excuse to use purple colours without being accused of being a Fauvist.

In 1962, the London Tate Gallery staged a Francis Bacon retrospective, which travelled to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Other significant exhibitions of his paintings were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1963); the Grand Palais in Paris (1971); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1975); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1989); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1990); and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris (1996).

Bacon died from a heart attack on April 28, 1992, in Madrid, Spain. After his death, the contents of his chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, were donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

Most Expensive Paintings By Francis Bacon include the following:

Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969)
Sold by Christie’s New York, in November 2013, for $142 million. The world’s most expensive painting.

Triptych (1976)
Sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2008 for $86.3 million.

Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards (1984)
Sold at Christie’s New York in 2014 for $80.8 million.

Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966)
Sold at Christie’s London in February 2014 for $70 million.

Study After Velazquez’ Portrait of Innocent X (1953)
Sold for $52.6 million at Sotheby’s New York, in 2007.

Three Studies for a Self Portrait (1985-6)
Sold for $34.4 million at Christie’s London in 2008.

Version No 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (1968)
Fetched $19.3 million at Christie’s auction, New York, in 2006.

Crouching Nude (1952)
Sold for £8.3 million (Sotheby’s London, June 2011)

Study from the Human Body, Man Turning on the Light (1973)
Bought for £8 million at Christie’s London in 2007.

Portrait of George Dyer Staring into a Mirror (1967)
Fetched £4.9 million at Christie’s London, in 2005.

Brian Maguire

Brian MaguireThe Irish expressionist painter Brian Maguire was born in County Wicklow. He studied drawing and painting at the Dun Laoghaire School of Art, and fine art at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin. A gifted student and artist, Maguire was appointed Professor of the Fine Art faculty at NCAD, in 2000.

Brian Maguire’s expressionistic drawings and paintings (as well as his video, photography, and poster artworks) deal with themes of physical and political alienation. His focus on marginalized or disenfranchised groups has led him to work at a number of prisons, hospitals and other institutions in Ireland, Poland, and the USA, including: Mountjoy Jail, Dublin, Portaloise Jail, Spike Island, Co. Cork, Fort Mitchell Prison and Bayview Correction Center, New York. His recent paintings have also been inspired by American and world political events.

A former member of the Independent Artists Group, Maguire has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, America and Japan. He represented Ireland at the 1998 Sao Paulo Bienal, and created the “Casa de Cultura” series based on people from that city’s slums. Maguire has also enjoyed a number of successful solo exhibitions, including Lincoln Gallery, Dublin (1981); Triskel Gallery, Cork (1982); Irish Pavilion, Leeuwarden, Netherlands (1990); Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2001); Fenton Gallery, Cork (2003). In 2000, The Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin hosted a major retrospective for Maguire, which travelled to the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston, Texas. Maguire also won the Irish-American Cultural Institute’s O’Malley Art Award in 1990.

Brian Maguire 2Maguire’s paintings and other artworks are represented in collections including: the Irish Museum of Modern art, Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery in Dublin, University College Dublin, Office of Public Works (OPW), Crawford Municipal Gallery Cork, the Alvar Aalto Museum in Finland, and the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague, Netherlands.

Colin Middleton RHA MBE (1910-1983)

Colin Middleton 2The highly respected Irish landscape artist, figure painter and Surrealist Colin Middleton was born in Belfast in 1910. While he was learning painting and drawing at Belfast College of Art, he was heavily influenced by the work of the Dutch Expressionist Vincent Van Gogh. A deep thinker as well as a modern artist, Middleton’s early work contained non-naturalistic use of colour as well as symbolist even surrealist imagery, leading him to regard himself as the only Surrealist working in Ireland in the 1930s. His paintings first appeared at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1938, although perhaps because of his modern approach to art he only gained associate membership in 1969 and full membership in 1970.

In 1943, the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery arranged a vast, comprehensive one-man exhibition for Middleton – at the time the largest solo show seen. The following year, he held his first solo exhibition in Dublin at the Grafton Gallery in 1944. After this, he devoted himself full-time to painting. More exhibitions followed in Dublin, London and Boston. Post-war images of the Nazi death-camps was a strong influence behind the emotional content of some of Middleton’s greatest paintings. Another response to the war, was to look inwards, and his work in the early 1940s shows a new affection for Belfast life in his genre-paintings of street scenes.

In 1953, Colin Middleton moved to Bangor where he designed numerous theatre sets. He also exhibited alongside Daniel O’Neill at the Tooth Galleries in London. However, the later 1950’s were uncertain years. He was no longer represented by Victor Waddignton Galleries, with whom he had succeeded in the post-war years, and he also moved to Portrush, County Antrim, on the north coast. It was here that he began a parallel career as an art teacher that was to endure for the next 20 years. These changes coincided with shifts in Middleton’s painting, as he renewed and strengthened his interest in abstract art in which the theoretical use of colour began to dominate.

Colin Middleton 1A poet and musician, Colin Middleton also produced a vast range of other artwork such as murals, mosaics and posters. In 1969 he was awarded an MBE and appointed AHRA at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), with full membership in 1970. A major Colin Middleton retrospective was held in 1976, at the Ulster Museum and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. He continued to exhibit at the RHA until his death in 1983. His paintings, some of which command six figure sums at auction, are represented in a large number of public and private collections.

The auction record for a work by Colin Middleton was set in 2005, when his oil painting entitled Muriel was sold at James Adams, in Dublin, for €170,000.

 

Roderic O’Conor (1860–1940)

Roderic_o'connor_yellow_landscapeA Francophile, an exponent of Post-Impressionism, and one of the most famous figures in Irish Painting of the late 19th and early 20th century, Roderic O’Conor was born in County Roscommon and entered the Dublin School of Art (now the National College of Art and Design) at the age of 19. The following year, along with fellow artist Richard Moynan, he studied drawing and fine art painting at the Royal Hibernian Academy, before going to the Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Antwerp.

After Antwerp, O’Conor spent time in Paris where he became inspired by the outdoor Impressionist painters like Pissarro and Sisley. As a result, he developed an interest in landscape painting and duly left Paris for the Breton village of Pont-Aven (a latter day Barbizon school), where he worked alongside several artists including the Post-Impressionist painters like Paul Gauguin. In some of his 1890s paintings one can see clear traces of the painting techniques which later became known as Fauvism and Expressionism.

Roderic_O'Conor_field-of-corn-pont-avenAt the Post-Aven school, O’Conor painted two portraits of Breton girls. And in his painting Field of Corn, Pont Aven (1892) his brushwork and colouring is reminiscent of the post-Impressionist Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, who had just committed suicide.

O’Conor spent more of his life in France than any other Irish painter and unquestionably belongs to the sunny ‘Post-Impressionist’ world of the turn of the century. Inspired and engaged by the use of colour, his bold colors and color combinations give his work the stamp of true individuality. Other members of “The Antwerp School”, like Walter Osborne and Nathaniel Hill (both more mainstream Impressionists) and Joseph Kavanagh (Dutch/Belgian style) tended to shy away from O’Conor’s colourism.

After 1904, O’Conor stayed in Paris for the next eight years. Soon his oil painting developed a rich vibrancy of color and a weight of impasto which became two of his mature hallmarks. His subject matter also changed. Instead of landscapes and outdoor artwork, he switched more to painted interiors, nudes and still-life painting.

In Reclining Nude Before A Mirror (c. 1909), the subject is portrayed in a harmony of soft reds, pinks and violets under dim studio light and is reflected in a mirror, in the Baroque tradition. Other female nudes by O’Conor include: Reclining Nude (1910), Perles Rouges (1915), Reclining Nude on a Chaise Longue (1915), La Femme Au Drap Rouge (1916), Seated Nude, Half Length (1923).

He died in Nueil-sur-Layon, France in March 1940.

The auction record for a work by Roderic O’Conor was set in 2005, when his oil painting, entitled La Lisiere Du Bois, was sold at Sotheby’s, in London, for £792,000.