2017-11-22-2017-11-21 --- 2017-11-21 15:36:57--18
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LOT :29
Basil Blackshaw HRHA RUA (1932-2016)
Estimate EUR : €10,000.00 - €15,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017

Description

Basil Blackshaw HRHA RUA (1932-2016)

Portrait of the Poet Michael Longley (1989)

Oil on canvas, 58 x 58cm (22½ x 22½)
Signed

 

Provenance: The Eamonn Mallie Collection

 

Exhibited : The Kenny Gallery, Galway where purchased; Basil Blackshaw Painter touring exhibition, Ormeau Baths 1995, Model Arts, Sligo 1996, RHA Gallery, Dublin 1997; Basil Blackshaw at 80 Retrospective Exhibition, The FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge, May October 2012, The RHA Gallery, Dublin, January - February 2013.

 

Literature: Basil Blackshaw Painter by Brian Ferran, illustrated page 110; 'Basil Blackshaw by Eamonn Mallie, illustrated Plate 84, p.207; Basil Blackshaw at 80, FE Mc William Gallery, Fig 10.

 

My acquiring this portrait of poet Michael Longley was as much an accident as the fact that it was painted in the first place. In the late Eighties my wife and I were heading West on our holidays and were passing through Monaghan town when we halted at a famous fashion house called Panache'.

An hour later Mrs M emerged with a little Escada outfit which put quite a hole in my pocket. My first port of call in Galway down the years was always Kenny's Bookshop and Gallery.

 

I fell at the first hurdle buying an oil portrait of poet Michael Longley at a very considerable figure not feeling too guilty though, against the backdrop of my largesse towards my wife in Monaghan and the procurement of her little Escada number. I was acting out the games played out between many husbands and wives all over the country who are art aficionados. In marriage there has to be give and take! It is not the painting one has but the next one for which one lusts. Several portraits attracted my attention in Kenny's that August day including a wonderful image of Brian Friel by Blackshaw but Longley is my neighbour and he won the day. I met a friend in the street outside Kenny's and I recommended he should go into the gallery and buy Blackshaw's portrait of Friel. He did just that, happy to be the owner of Blackshaw's portrait of the Donegal based playwright, with whom he was friendly for decades.

 

I spoke above of the accident which led to my coming across the Longley portrait in Galway and again it was happenstance which actually led to the painting being made by Blackshaw in the first instance. Michael had gone to Blackshaw's studio out in Antrim to sit for him but Basil struggled to get a handle on the sitter for a considerable time deciding the undertaking wasn't working.

In fact he thought he had totally lost it. After some further observation Blackshaw told me he pulled the portrait together rather quickly to his surprise, and simply stopped, knowing to continue might result in his losing what he had achieved. What he captured in so little activity on the canvas is very revealing. The approach is minimalist, deploying thin oil paint while allowing the canvas to do a lot of the work for him. Clearly some rubbing, sponging and use of a rag took place.

The work is a big favourite of Longley's who talked affectionately and liberally about it in the BBC documentary I made on the life of Basil Blackshaw. Blackshaw's peers hold him in high esteem when it comes to making portraits. The one of former Irish Times editor Douglas Gageby is considered to be a master piece. Before heading to Dublin to paint former President Mary Robinson, Blackshaw told me he had a vision of how he wanted to paint her. When she walked into his studio and sat down she assumed the pose automatically to which he had aspired - her hands resting on her lap to the side as you will observe if you get a chance to see the portrait. Brian Friel proudly showed me Blackshaw's portrait of him in his Donegal home. He had been painted by many artists but up until that moment he considered Blackshaw's painting of him as the jewel in the crown.

You can make up your own mind about Blackshaw's image of the author of these words.

That is your prerogative as a viewer.

 

Eamonn Mallie

 

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