Undiscovered Keating works to headline Fonsie Mealy sale

Jack B Yeats watercolour and an important work by John Shinnors also feature

Three recently discovered works by Seán Keating will be offered on the market for the first time at Fonsie Mealy’s forthcoming sale. Comprising more than 400 lots, with limited edition prints, drawings, watercolours and oils along with sculptures, wines and whiskeys, the sale will take place on November 16th at the Chatsworth Auction Rooms in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

From a private institutional collection in the west of Ireland, the three Keating works depict life on the Aran Islands in the 1950s. Despite having adopted a style similar to his tutor William Orpen, Limerick born Keating had little interest in Orpen’s world of painting the gentrified life of London’s elite. Instead, he opted to capture the west of Ireland, and was introduced to the Aran Islands by friend and fellow student Harry Clarke.

“There is often a theatrical quality to his paintings; they are like tableaux, scenes from Riders to the Sea or In the Shadow of the Glen, two plays by Synge set on the Aran Islands,” according to Dr Peter Murray in the catalogue notes. Keating, says Murray, does not heroise or glamorise his west of Ireland subjects, preferring instead to capture, and almost revere, their traditional way of life.

Waiting for the Steamer, Aran Islands, the largest of the paintings, is listed at €50,000-€70,000, while Village on the Aran Islands, and Man and Woman collecting Seaweed, Aran Islands, are seeking €15,000-€20,000 and €30,000-€40,000, respectively.


An early work by another Limerick artist, John Shinnors, is also represented. Listed at €8,000-€10,000, Patrick Sarsfield Signing the Treaty of Limerick, painted in or around 1991, marks the 200th anniversary of the treaty being signed by the 1st Earl Lucan, against the backdrop of King John’s Castle.

A watercolour by Jack B Yeats will be of interest to those who cannot stretch to the price of an oil, by one of Ireland’s greatest artists. Listed at €10,000-€15,000, The Ballad Singer’s Children was first exhibited in Dublin in 1902, before being purchased by John Quinn, an Irish corporate lawyer in New York, who became a patron to the artist.

Quinn also supported Jack’s father John B Yeats, when he came to New York with daughter Lily to exhibit her craftwork. John B refused to return home to Ireland saying, “to leave New York is to leave a huge fair where any moment I might meet with some huge bit of luck”. This luck never came his way, and he was never to see Lily again, with just a few reunions with William and Jack. In exchange for literary manuscripts WB sent him, Quinn continually paid for John’s bills at a New York boarding house on West 29th Street.

Also included are works (€300-€400) by painter, polymath, cartoonist Micheál Ó Nualláin, aka Kilroy, who was described as “a very unusual civil servant” in his obituary upon his death in 2016.

Signing himself Kilroy, he drew satirical cartoons for The Irish Times and painted a portrait of his brother Brian O’Nolan, known as Flann O’Brien, an image that was issued as a postage stamp in 2011. His work was shown alongside a Jack B Yeats exhibition in 1971 in Toronto.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables