Seascapes by Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats and Seán Keating to dominate Adam’s Fine Art sale

Auction house also has range of Christmas tipples, including bottles from the ‘wine geese’, champagne and aged whiskey

There’s a bit of a maritime theme in Adam’s Important Irish Art auction, which will take place in a live sale on Wednesday December 6th at its saleroom on St Stephen’s Green. With 133 lots, the catalogue features many of our finest 19th- and 20th-century artists.

Recent sales at the auction house have included two fine oils depicting sea captains by Jack B Yeats. On a Western Quay (1923) sold for €110,000 in September this year, while Near the Docks also achieved €110,000 in May. The Captain, from 1948, which was until recently part of the Yeats family collection, depicts an elegant young seafarer looking over the side of his craft. But this is not your typical maritime captain, “the usual gnarly, world-weary character, that Yeats was drawn to”, according to catalogue notes. Instead, the artist gave him a smarter feel with a cobalt jacket and cap, a black cravat and even a pink rose in his lapel (lot 25, €100,000-€150,000).

More marine vistas include Keem Bay and Paysage Sinistre by Paul Henry (lots 16 and 37, €60,000-€80,000 and €50,000-€70,000). Both works have never been seen in public before, as they were in the collection of Samuel Figgis, who acquired the works directly from Henry. Figgis had a cottage on Achill Island, and it is thought that Henry and the Figgis family were friends, and that the artist may have stayed at their cottage for a time. These works left Ireland a few decades ago and went to the UK, from where they have been subsequently consigned. Because of Brexit, this means they are subject to import duty of 13.5 per cent on fees, but estimates have been adjusted accordingly.

A further Paul Henry, Near Leenane (lot 11, €80,000-€120,000), is a later work from about 1935-38, when “his unique interest in pure landscape was at its height”.


Seán Keating was said to be keenly interested in climatic conditions, and many of his on-site sketches are overwritten with notes. Aran Harbour (lot 50, €80,000-€120,000), with heavy brushstrokes and colourful seas, is considered to be a panacea for war, as noted by Dr Eimear O’Connor, author of Sean Keating: Art, Ireland, and Building the Irish Nation. Reminded of the wars in his past, Keating wrote in his personal notes that “all the naked cruelty and horribleness of everything yawns wide like the mouth of a savage beast” and this work exuding the tranquillity and solitude on Aran Island is seen as an antidote to the wartime during which it was painted.

The stillness of the ocean is also the theme in Keating’s Flat Calm (lot 55, €50,000-€70,000). Executed in the early 1920s, “it is a great work filled with the best of Keating’s signature gestures of depth of pigment [and] terrific human observation”, according to the art historian Ciarán MacGonigal.

Modernist works include Patrick Hennessy’s Marine Encounter (lot 3, €8,000-€12,000), which has a slightly surreal character, and is evocative of the artist’s move to Morocco in 1968. In sharp contrast is The Launch of the Lifeboat (lot 73, €1,500-€2,500), by Thomas Rose Miles, the Victorian landscape and marine painter.

Three works on paper by stained glass artist Harry Clarke are among the highlights of the sale. Never before seen in public, two of these works are from the estate of barrister Albert E Wood, who lived in Killiney and was a friend and patron of Clarke’s. Gracing the catalogue cover is The Colloquy of Monos and Una (lot 57, €20,000-€30,000) from an expanded edition in 1923 that the artist drew as illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (though the ones used in the book are black-and-white).

Meanwhile, if you’re considering Christmas tipples, Adam’s auction of Vintage Wines and Spirits, a timed online sale closing Thursday December 7th, is now open for bidding.

The sale centres on a superb selection of Bordeaux mainly from the famous ‘wine geese’ houses, whose lineage dates to 18th-century Ireland. Wines, in lots of single bottles or groups of three, six or a dozen from various chateaux, including Léoville Barton, Lynch-Bages, Talbot, Kirwan, Clarke and Phélan Ségur, range in estimates from €80 upwards.

There are also numerous lots of fine Italian wines, including Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Barbera d’Alba, styles of red wine that are perennially popular with Irish wine lovers, while the old favourites of Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot in single-bottle lots are available in the champagne section.

Among the highlights of the spirits section is a “phenomenally rare” 50-year-old bottle of Bowmore single malt whiskey, which comes in a special case (€35,000-€45,000). Numerous bottles of Ireland’s finest, Midleton Whiskey, are also on offer, and range in estimates from €150 to €2,000.

Post-prandial offerings include fine port and cigars including a box of 15 mixed Montecristo Cuban cigars (lot 329, €800-€1,200).

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

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