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LOT :48
Margaret Clarke RHA (1888-1961) Portrait of ?amon de Valera Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 40.5cm (20 x 16'') Inscribed verso 'sketch of Eamon de Valera - two sittings by Margaret Clarke' Provenance: The sitter and thence by descent to current owners Margaret Clarke was commissioned to paint ?amon de Valera in the autumn of 1928. De Valera had abandoned abstentionism and taken his seat in D?il ?ireann the previous year, an important year for Margaret Clarke also: she had been granted full academic membership of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), only the second woman to be so honoured. Dermod O'Brien, president of the RHA, was a great admirer of her portraiture: What I like about her work is her sincerity and insight and characterization. She does not content herself with setting a surface likeness but seems to search into the character of the sitter and get at the soul of him or her. (Extract from a letter to Mr Dwyer, Fitzwilliam Square, regarding a commission, July 1932) O'Brien recommended Clarke for a number of commissions, including this one from John J. Shelly of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Shelly had specific ideas regarding the work, which he put to Clarke in a letter now unfortunately lost. In a subsequent letter dated Nov. 1928, he was jubilant with relief, having just received long-awaited confirmation from Frank Gallagher of Fianna F?il that de Valera was willing to sit for Clarke. Shelly seems to have hoped that the portrait would be part of a promotional campaign. He confided to Clarke that he 'thought his [Gallagher's] silence was one way of ''freezing me out'''. Gallagher was de Valera's media and public relations man, soon to be the first editor of the Irish Press. Obviously Shelly had reason to believe that he might not welcome outside interference. Perhaps, in the end, Gallagher had his way. Shelly had specifically requested that the painting should be exhibited at the next RHA annual exhibition. Clarke exhibited works there in 1929 and for many years thereafter, but her portrait of de Valera never appeared publicly. The painting is carefully composed to combine informality and status. A formally dressed De Valera is casually leaning on a bookcase with an academic backdrop of swathes of red fabric partially obscuring a green wall. Most uncharacteristic of Clarke as a portrait artist and of de Valera as a public figure is the hint of a smile on his relaxed face. Arguably, Shelly wanted the image of a civilized, benign gentleman to be used to help banish memories of de Valera's more violent past Margaret Clarke had one more encounter with de Valera: Harry Clarke's work known as the Geneva Window had been in storage in government buildings since his death in Jan 1931. She had tried to buy it back from Cosgrave. On taking office in 1932, de Valera ordered that she be asked if she was still interested in it, and noted that it had 'acquired' two cracks. During negotiations with Se?n Lemass and others, Clarke argued strongly for some sort of favourable terms but de Valera and his cabinet insisted she repay the full purchase price of ?450. Clarke was deeply disappointed and may well have regretted ever accepting Shelly's thirty guineas and endowing de Valera with a smile. Fiana Griffin
Estimate EUR : €7,000.00 - €10,000.00
Auction Date : 30-05-2012

Description

Margaret Clarke RHA (1888-1961) Portrait of ?amon de Valera Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 40.5cm (20 x 16'') Inscribed verso 'sketch of Eamon de Valera - two sittings by Margaret Clarke' Provenance: The sitter and thence by descent to current owners Margaret Clarke was commissioned to paint ?amon de Valera in the autumn of 1928. De Valera had abandoned abstentionism and taken his seat in D?il ?ireann the previous year, an important year for Margaret Clarke also: she had been granted full academic membership of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), only the second woman to be so honoured. Dermod O'Brien, president of the RHA, was a great admirer of her portraiture: What I like about her work is her sincerity and insight and characterization. She does not content herself with setting a surface likeness but seems to search into the character of the sitter and get at the soul of him or her. (Extract from a letter to Mr Dwyer, Fitzwilliam Square, regarding a commission, July 1932) O'Brien recommended Clarke for a number of commissions, including this one from John J. Shelly of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Shelly had specific ideas regarding the work, which he put to Clarke in a letter now unfortunately lost. In a subsequent letter dated Nov. 1928, he was jubilant with relief, having just received long-awaited confirmation from Frank Gallagher of Fianna F?il that de Valera was willing to sit for Clarke. Shelly seems to have hoped that the portrait would be part of a promotional campaign. He confided to Clarke that he 'thought his [Gallagher's] silence was one way of ''freezing me out'''. Gallagher was de Valera's media and public relations man, soon to be the first editor of the Irish Press. Obviously Shelly had reason to believe that he might not welcome outside interference. Perhaps, in the end, Gallagher had his way. Shelly had specifically requested that the painting should be exhibited at the next RHA annual exhibition. Clarke exhibited works there in 1929 and for many years thereafter, but her portrait of de Valera never appeared publicly. The painting is carefully composed to combine informality and status. A formally dressed De Valera is casually leaning on a bookcase with an academic backdrop of swathes of red fabric partially obscuring a green wall. Most uncharacteristic of Clarke as a portrait artist and of de Valera as a public figure is the hint of a smile on his relaxed face. Arguably, Shelly wanted the image of a civilized, benign gentleman to be used to help banish memories of de Valera's more violent past Margaret Clarke had one more encounter with de Valera: Harry Clarke's work known as the Geneva Window had been in storage in government buildings since his death in Jan 1931. She had tried to buy it back from Cosgrave. On taking office in 1932, de Valera ordered that she be asked if she was still interested in it, and noted that it had 'acquired' two cracks. During negotiations with Se?n Lemass and others, Clarke argued strongly for some sort of favourable terms but de Valera and his cabinet insisted she repay the full purchase price of ?450. Clarke was deeply disappointed and may well have regretted ever accepting Shelly's thirty guineas and endowing de Valera with a smile. Fiana Griffin

Hammer Price : €6,500.00
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