The Moon over the Bog signed 'Gerard Dillon' (lower right) and titled 'THE MOON OVER THE BOG' (verso) oil on board 45.5 x 60.8 cm. (17 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.) Painted in 1954
PROVENANCE: With The Maxwell Galleries, San Francisco, 1954 Private Collection, France
LITERATURE: James White, Gerard Dillon, An Illustrated Biography, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1994, p.75 (ill.b&w)
Moon over the Bog was painted in 1954, following one of the artist's many trips to Roundstone in the West of Ireland, when he invited fellow artists George Campbell, Oisin Kelly, Nano Reid and Arthur Armstrong to stay with him to paint the people and the surrounding scenic landscape. Other renowned works from this period include The Yellow Bungalow (Ulster Museum), Island people (The Crawford Art Gallery), Connolly's Bar (Private Collection) and Lobster Pots (Private Collection).
Throughout the artist's life a moon is depicted in several works in various shapes and sizes. Moon Worshipperscirca 1940s, Girl in a Bogcirca 1950s to later pictures, Reflectionscirca 1960s where Pierrots appear to represent himself. Sometimes the moon becomes a face or a human head, where the artist's interest is in pattern, shape and design, or later after the death of his three brothers the moon is linked to the artist's fear in his own mortality.
Moon over the Bog is closely related to two other works, Connemara Lovers (see Fig 1, sold for 80,000, James Adams & Bonhams, 28 May 2008, lot 61), and Connemara Moon. Influenced by Chagall, romance and fantasy are evident in each composition with starry or decoratively designed disproportionate moon faces. James White who wrote a biography on the artist (Gerard Dillon, an illustrated biography published by Wolfound Press, 1994) refers to this painting on page seventy-five on a visit to the artist's studio in 1957. The artist explained to his friend how he achieved the paint surface on the moon of Moon over the Bog, and how the painting was inspired from "an unforgettable night in Roundstone when he and Nano Reid were walking home after a late night's drinking. "The moon was so huge and romantic hanging over the land that even the young man in the picture was proposing marriage to the girl to whom he was making love." In October of that year, James opened the artist's one-man show in the Dawson Gallery, Dublin, which received some press after James expressed his concern that Irish artists living in London were receiving no sympathy or support from their native country.
In the foreground, a young couple are romantically depicted leaning against a turf stack unaware of an enormous moon, whose gaze is neither on the couple nor at us, the viewer. It would appear from the pattern of footed turf in the landscape the time is set in summer. In the 1950s at the first sign of dry weather, butter-soft peat was cut by a Slane, and footed into little stacks to shrink and harden, and put into creels by children and taken to the nearest track, where a stack would be built. The abandoned ladder against one stack suggests the turf is beginning to be stacked neatly side by side, the top slanting edges pointing downwards so rain can't enter.
The artist recorded a time in the West of Ireland, when lives were non political and uncomplicated, but more recently the balance of the bogland as a priority habitat, and the fuel and income needs of the people continues to be debated today.
We are grateful to Karen Reihill, who is currently researching the life and work of Gerard Dillon, for compiling this catalogue entry.