2017-11-22-2018-12-19 --- 2018-12-19 01:20:15--18
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LOT :100
Daniel O'Neill (1920-1974)
Doll on the Beach
Oil on canvas, 34.5 x 44.5cm (13½ x 17½'')
Estimate EUR : €15,000.00 - €20,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017


Daniel O'Neill (1920-1974)
Doll on the Beach
Oil on canvas, 34.5 x 44.5cm (13½ x 17½'')

Provenance: With the Victor Waddington Gallery, London; The Waddington Galleries, Montreal (labels verso); later sold these rooms, Important Irish Art Sale, March 2000, Catalogue No.125, where purchased.

Exhibited: 'Daniel O'Neill, Loan Exhibition of Paintings 1944-1952, CEMA Belfast Musuem And Art Gallery, Stranmillis, 26th March-12th April, 1952, Cat No. 9.



Born in Belfast, Daniel ONeill worked as an electrician and painted in his spare time until the dealer Victor Waddington encouraged him to devote full time to painting. In 1943, he held his first show in Dublin with his close friend, Gerard Dillon at the Contemporary Picture Galleries, and after the success of his first one man show in 1946 with The Victor Waddington Galleries in Dublin, ONeill held regular solo exhibitions with Waddington, who organized his paintings to go on touring exhibitions in America, Amsterdam, Whales, Scotland and London.


Executed in 1947, Doll on The Beach was first exhibited in a group exhibition with Nevill Johnson and Belfast friends, Gerard Dillon and George Campbell in September, 1947 at Waddingtons Gallery. In the same year, ONeill contributed to the Royal Academys summer show in London, and his work was selected to exhibit in New York, at the Associated American Artists(AAA) Gallery on 5th Avenue. Reviewing the 1947 exhibition at Waddingtons, one critic remarked, Ǫhe [Daniel ONeill] is working his way out of a previously rather limited range of languid human forms; the colours of some dolls dresses that he found in a museum have fascinated him, and with reason. ONeill has achieved popularity remarkably quicklyǪ (The Irish Times, 20/9/47). The painter, Ralph Cusack loaned Doll on The Beach in ONeills 1952 Retrospective in the CEMA organized show at the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition consisted of forty-five paintings dating from 1944 and most were borrowed from patrons which included the Earl of Rosse, Lord Moyne, Lord Killanin, Zoltan Lewinter-Frankl, and the Belfast Gallery. The exhibition in the Belfast Gallery was ONeills first appearance in his native city since his first group show in 1940 at the Mol gallery in Belfast. In contrast to his retrospective exhibition, all of the seven paintings at the Mol gallery were unsold.


Although this painting is difficult to interpret, ONeills vision is deeply personal and the artists choice of palette is deliberate. Combining thin transparent glazes with richness of colour, ONeill liked to achieve dramatic effects with elements of melancholy. Mannequin type figures can appear calm in a dramatic setting. His early influences of the Old Masters are visible in these studies of women who are often depicted in sparse, lonely landscapes. Here rich tones of pink are set against muted colours. In 1947, dolls and puppets feature strongly in the artists oeuvre and are imbued with a poetic fantasy. The model may represent his wife, Eileen who had dark eyes and black hair or be someone from his imagination. The reclining model in an elaborate outfit appears strangely out of place on a beach. Her expression and posture is constrained and awkward. The fan and parasol suggest the model needs protection from the sun, yet instead of sunshine, a darkening sky creates a feeling of foreboding. John Hewitt, a critic and museum curator of the Belfast Museum personally knew and admired ONeills work in the 1940s. Perhaps it is worth noting what Hewitt stated in the introduction in ONeills retrospective catalogue 1952, It is easy enough to recognize Daniel ONeills individual quality, but a much more difficult matter to define it.


Karen Reihill

October, 2015


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