A Paul Henry seascape: making waves at Bonhams Modern British and Irish Art sale

Modern British and Irish Art
20 Nov 2013
London, New Bond Street

A dramatic painting by Paul Henry R.H.A. (1876-1958), one of the most influential Irish landscape artists of the 20th century, will be a highlight at Bonhams Modern British and Irish Art sale on November 20 in London's New Bond Street. 'The Curragh' (1913-14) comes to auction from the collection of an Irish family and is estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000. This is the first time the painting has been on the market in sixty years.

Penny Day, Head of Irish Art at Bonhams, comments: "What's exciting about 'The Curragh' is that it presents a rare and charged seascape by an artist who's better known for his calm, rural landscapes. The scene is rendered with spontaneous strokes that show Henry at his best and compel the viewer to urge the men forward".

This oil on board is signed 'PAUL HENRY' on the lower left corner and measures 33 x 41.2 cm. (13 x 16 1/4 in.). It was painted on Achill, an island to the west of Ireland, where Henry spent a decade between 1910 and 1919. Both he and his wife Grace painted landscapes of Achill and portraits of its locals.

'The Curragh' is full of drama: Its high horizon, wind-blown clouds, and crashing waves emphasise the danger facing the crew of the small wooden craft. The painting is a prime example of Henry's penchant for realism. Unlike the popular illustrators who portrayed a romanticised and sentimental Ireland, Henry presented sincere images of the islanders' harsh living conditions and the tragedy of life.

In light of the spare and sketchy style of his landscapes, Henry can be seen as one of Ireland's first post-Impressionist artists. 'The Curragh' shows his use of mass and colour—Achill is here reduced to its key essentials of sky and sea—and his spontaneous and fluid brushwork at its best.

'The Curragh' was exhibited in Belfast at the Art Gallery of the Belfast Industrial Development Association in 1914 and Magee's Gallery in 1919; in Dublin at Mill's Hall in 1919, the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1943, and the National Gallery of Ireland in 2003; and in Shannon at Shannon Free Airport in 1957.

Penny Day remarks: "'The Curragh' is a superb painting by one of Ireland's most loved artists. The fact that it remains in its original condition and has been consigned from an Irish family, having been in the same private collection since the 1950s, adds to its appeal".

For further information and images call Chloe Ashby on 0207 468 5870, or email chloe.ashby@bonhams.com or press@bonhams.com.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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