2018-03-27-2018-12-18 --- 2018-12-18 13:26:46--18
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LOT :20
Margaret Clarke RHA (1888-1961)
Portrait of the Artist Dermod O'Brien PRHA in his Studio
Oil on canvas, 125 x 100cm (49¼ x 39¼'')
Estimate EUR : €5,000.00 - €7,000.00
Auction Date : 27-03-2018


Margaret Clarke RHA (1888-1961)
Portrait of the Artist Dermod O'Brien PRHA in his Studio
Oil on canvas, 125 x 100cm (49¼ x 39¼'')
Signed and dated 1934

Exhibited: 'Margaret Clarke: An Independent Spirit', F.E. McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge September/ November 2017

Literature: "Palette and plough" by Lennox Robinson 1948 - this picture used as frontispiece.

The frame has a plaque inscribed 'Presented to Dermod O'Brien PRHA by a number of Friends and Admirers, 13 December 1934'. The artists daughter, Brigid Ganly notes that the portrait on the easel is that of 'Edward Bannon' of Broughal Castle, Offaly but also of New York, Newport and Florida; which she thinks is one of the best portraits her father ever painted. It was presented by Mrs Banon to The National Gallery of Ireland.

Margaret Clarke (1884-1961) was commissioned to paint this portrait of Dermod OBrien by his many friends and admirers, who presented it to him as a gift in 1934. OBrien was a prominent figure in Irish life in the early part of the twentieth century, involved in many organisations, and a fervent supporter of Horace Plunketts co-operative movement. His most enduring role was as President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) from 1910 until his death in 1945. He was born in 1865 into a wealthy landowning family in Limerick that traced their ancestry back to Brian Boru. Though a Protestant and married to a Unionist, he was politically unaligned, committed to helping Irish society develop socially and culturally. He said of himself that his driving force was the thing to be accomplished. It does not matter to me whether Ireland is saved by the priests, peoples, Orangemen or English...

Margaret Clarke and Dermod OBrien had known each other for many years. When Clarkes husband, Harry Clarke, died in 1931, OBrien offered Clarke not only sympathy but assistance, should she need it. They had much in common. Clarke had been elected a full member of the RHA in 1928 only the second woman to be so honoured. They had both been thoroughly schooled in the traditional, academic approach to art OBrien in Antwerp, Clarke in Dublin under Orpen but they were generous, active supporters of less traditional, more radical artists, and sat together on committees such as the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. When OBrien learnt that Clarke was to paint him, he wrote to her to say how very pleased he was. Elsewhere, he praised the sincerity, insight and characterization of her portraiture, and her ability to search into the character of the sitter and get at the soul of him or her.

However, always the organiser, OBrien began to issue instructions: he did not want to be shown as an important official in robes and chains, but neither did he want her to portray him as a plain citizen. Half-jokingly, he told her to make him beautiful and sympathetic and dignified, and at the same time humble and diffident. Clarke painted him in his role of artist, paintbrush in hand, standing in front of his easel, but not looking at it. He is formally dressed, bristling with the air of a man of authority poised for action, seeking the next challenge. At Clarkes suggestion, perhaps to balance his obvious dignity with the requested humility, he donned a crios, the belt worn by peasants of the Aran Islands. According to his daughter, Brigid Ganly, herself an artist, this is the best portrait ever painted of OBrien: absolutely characteristic in the pose of the head, the alert glance, the quick humour of the mouth.

OBrien remained a lifelong advocate of Clarkes work, helping her to get commissions and advising bodies such as the Haverty Trust to purchase her paintings.

Fiana Griffin


Hammer Price : €11,000.00
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