“Cork Departure” an iconic painting by David Briggs

My latest acquisition – this years’ Christmas present to myself – is this superb painting by Northern Irish Transport artist David Briggs. Painted a few years ago by the artist for his own collection it had only just come on the market and was a rare opportunity to acquire his work as these days he only undertakes commissions. It was in fact the painting that originally drew my attention to his work when I started this site but I never thought that one day I would be lucky enough to own it!

Titled “Cork Departure” it depicts Great Southern Railway of Ireland’s locomotive No.800 Maedb (Maeve) lifting the heavy 4.00pm mails for Dublin from Glanmire Road station (now Kent) in Cork in late August 1939 when the locomotive was only a few weeks into service. Prior to its introduction the mail trains – some of the heaviest trains in the country at the time, often of 450 tons – required two, and sometimes three, locomotives to get up the gradient out of Cork which is in places 1:60.

One of my favourite railway locations and definitely my favourite Irish locomotive this painting has everything; and the attention to detail is amazing, right down to little things like the bus just visible over the wall on the station forecourt.

Today the “Maedb” is preserved as a static exhibit at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum near Belfast, but that doesn’t stop the dreamers among us hoping to see her restored to steam at some future date and returning to her old stomping ground on the Dublin/Cork line.

David Briggs remains available for commissions but his order book is usually full and you may have to get in line. He can be contacted via his Facebook page here: The Transport Artwork of David Briggs

More “Jotter” Magic!

Walter Hayward Young aka “Jotter” (1868 – 1920) was a prolific English artist who produced many hundreds of seriously good pieces of art for British postcard publishers – Raphael Tuck & Sons; Arthur Burkart & Co., Frederick Hartmann; Boots; Ettlinger & Co., Woolstone Bros., and many others. Nobody has ever produced a catalogue of his work but it must well into four figures at a conservative estimate. As well as the landscape cards there were a large number of comic cards but it is the ones of hotels in Britain and Ireland published by Burkart & Co., London, that attract the biggest interest amongst collectors. The Irish Burkart cards are particularly hard to come by and after several years searching online sale platforms such as eBay/Delcampe and eBid, I finally struck gold recently. As is the nature with these things it’s either a feast or a famine and no less than eight of the rarest cards appeared on eBay at the same time earlier this month. As luck would have have it there were other interested parties but I settled on three cards and was successful – £58.50 but cheap at the price.

Two of the cards, The Rosslare Hotel (now Kelly’s) and the Great Southern Hotel, Waterville, I knew about but a card, hitherto unknown to me, was The Grand Hotel, Greystones (latterly the La Touche). As in many of his paintings his use of dark colours and clouds creates a very dramatic effect.

He was just 52 years of age when he died and although he visited Ireland it’s not known how much of his work was from photographs and how much from site visits. Either way, he has left a magnificent legacy of work for future generations to enjoy.

Norah McGuinness – the real thing?

This interesting untitled work attributed to Norah McGuinness sold for just £134.00 on eBay on the 5/9/2020. Despite being signed it was sold as attributed to the artist which always rings alarm bells but, that said, it looks like the real deal to me when compared with similar works by the artist. If it is genuine,  I suspect that it will soon turn up in an Irish saleroom with a very different price tag.

Time to call a spade a spade!

The Emperor’s New Clothes are very much in evidence in de Vere’s Sale of “Outstanding Irish Art & Sculpture” on the 23rd July.

Many of the Lots in the auction fall into the category of “WTF!” – utter tripe masquerading as art when in reality it’s all about money pure and simple. What bona fide art collector would have the money for or be seen dead with Lot.14. Sean Scully’s “Double Window” on their wall? Carrying an eye watering estimate of €600,000 – €900,000 it is worthless rubbish from any rational artistic point of view and in real terms worth no more than the price of the material that it is painted on – if that. Yet, we have a well known member of the Irish Art hierarchy, Dr.Frances Ruane RHA, eulogising the work in de Vere’s catalogue and giving it, supposedly, some sort of official nod of approval?

Lot.14. “Double Window” (1998) Oil on linen, 54″ x 48 1/8″. Est: €600,000/900,000.

“Scully is undoubtedly one of the most significant artists alive today, with an impact that reverberates worldwide. To think about him in terms of Minimalism is to miss the mark. While the Minimalists tried to strip away subjectivity and self-expression to concentrate on the neutral aesthetic demands of the picture surface, Scully’s work oozes his personality. His paintings urge the viewer to feel something…..”

“Double Window has the gutsy, muscular feel that is Scully’s hallmark. When you look at it, you can feel the streetwise physicality of the artist. The brushstrokes are full of raw energy, dragged powerfully across the surface. To call the characteristic stripes “lines” don’t do them justice – they are heroic “slabs” of colour that cry out with confidence and intensity.”  Dr.Francis Ruane RHA, from the catalogue blurb.

Lot.1. “Summer Bog” a child like work by the late Sean McSweeney is more modestly priced (€2,500/3,500) but at best resembles something a primary student might have attempted and been reprimanded for by their teacher. As for the dreadful works of Tony O’Malley and Barrie Cooke….less said the better.

Lot.21. “The Street Performer” Est: €180,000/240,000 is yet another daub by Jack B Yeats – an artist that could paint when he started out but lost his way before gradually losing his sight. His friends and colleagues obviously hadn’t the heart to advise him to give up painting.

Lot.69.”Evening on the Lagan” Watercolour and ink, 9 ¼” x 11 ¼”. Est.: €1,500/2,500.

The same could be said of the late Basil Blackshaw who was another artist that could paint horses and people after a kind but also went down the abstract route – Lot.69. “Evening on the Lagan“, while not completely abstract, is a fairly embarrassing example of his later work. Put it this way, I can’t paint but if I produced this mess it would have gone on the fire. Worthless except for its apparent provenance – inscribed but not (?) signed.

All in all there’s little for the genuine art lover in this sale save for a solitary Paul Henry and a fine watercolour by Maurice Canning Wilks. Apologies to anybody I’ve offended – you can put my increased narkiness down to the lock-down blues.

“Sink the Bismarck”

A boredom purchase – well not quite but I have been frustrated lately in my pursuit of the artists that I collect. While doing the usual round of online searches for Irish paintings I happened upon this wonderfully atmospheric oil painting of the sinking of the German World.II. battleship “Bismarck” in May 1941.

Oil on canvas (12″ x 16.5″) by Charles Gorbing King.

The painting describes the attack on 26th May 1941 by RAF Swordfish biplanes from the carrier HMS Ark Royal on the “Bismarck”, pride of the German fleet, off the French coast. Despite their antiquated appearance the Swordfish attack managed to achieve what the Royal Navy surface fleet had not and their torpedoes damaged the Bismarck’s steering gear which was to prove fatal. The ship was unable to navigate and the next day British ships finished her off with ease and she went to the bottom taking 2,200 crew with her.

While I instantly was attracted by the painting I was uncertain but having seen the film “Sink the Bismarck” (1960) I decided to give it another watch – impressed I bought the painting the next day. That’s how fickle I am.


Irish Paint Magic – David Willis

I just came across this inspirational series today while updating my entry for the artist. Having not watched much television for years I had never seen this programme before and it really is quite outstanding. Self-taught artist David Willis from Mallow, Co.Cork is the mainstay of the series, and he shows how to paint the Irish landscape in 30 minute episodes with over 200 to-date going out on TG4 since 2003. His enthusiasm, skill and inimitable style draws one in but sadly it still won’t encourage me to try my hand at being an artist as to quote Clint Eastwood – “a good man knows his limitations“.

Well worth a look and many episodes are available on YouTube and via the programme production company here: https://www.lispopplestudios.com/

Still not a dicky-bird!

Despite extensive enquiries I am still at a total loss to find out anything about W. (William ?) Huston. He was active in the 1970/80s and even if he died in the late 1980s it’s not that long ago and somebody must know something about him. Some of his paintings – most of which have been sold in Northern Ireland – have Ulster Watercolour Society written on them but by whom? The UWS have no record of him and it is possible that some gallery or auctioneer took it upon themselves to append this information.

Some of his paintings were sold through the Arches Gallery on the Newtownards Road, Belfast, but that has long since closed and its proprietor disappeared. Anyone know who the owner was and does he still walk amongst us?

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to purchase another of his paintings through a seller on Done Deal, bringing my total haul to eight but it’s been hard work. The quality of his work varies greatly but this one was a ‘must have’ and a bargain at €120 including p+p from Limerick.

Please contact me at collectireland@gmail.com with any snippet of information.

Andy Pat’s Wandering Sheep reach the South West!

Far from home, Andy Pat’s sheep turned up in Morgan O’Driscoll’s “Off the Wall” sale last night (30/9/2019). The identity of the artist whose sheep paintings are usually only found north of the border remains a mystery despite many enquiries. Can anybody help me out?

Lot.376. “At the Portrush Open” acrylic on canvas board (10″ x 12″), sold for €100.00.

Gathered and Distilled…..

When I started out with this blog I set myself a target of buying at least one painting every month, but recently I’ve rather lost the run of myself. As a newcomer to collecting Art it has taken me a while to make up my mind what I really like and where I’m going with my collection. I began with buying Irish landscape watercolours by several less well known artists including Leon O’Kennedy (1900 – 1976); David Livingston (1920 – 1978) and Ross MacDonald Ross (1891 – 1972).

Whitepark Bay” by David Livingston. I never tire of seascapes of the Northern Irish coast!

Untitled Irish landscape oil on board (11″ x 19″) by Leon O’Kennedy purchased on eBay.

In recent months I’ve been fortunate in making contact with several other collectors with the same interests which has allowed me to get copies of works that that I might otherwise have felt the urge to bid on myself. This has meant that I can now concentrate on paintings purely for my own collection safe in the knowledge that copies of ones that I will need for ‘the project‘ will be available to me when the time is right.

Kanturk Castle, Co.Cork” watercolour by Lady Coralie Kinahan (1924 – 2015), purchased for a song at Ross’s, Belfast.

It was probably inevitable that I should find myself drawn back to my first interest as a child – birdwatching – and there are so many paintings out there at very reasonable prices. My current obsession is for William Huston a Northern Irish (?) artist about whom nothing seems to be known despite inquiries in all the right places. I already have seven of his works in my collection – including four in the last week.

Pheasants” oil on canvas (20″ x 30″) by W Huston – again from Ross’s and at just under £40 plenty of bang for my buck!

Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin” a large oil on canvas by Edward Tomkus (1936) – purchased on eBay for just £45 incl.delivery.

Careful management of my very limited funds together with too many hours of research, the occasional payout by Paddy Power Bookmakers means that I’ll soon have to open an Art Gallery to house the collection.

With PP as my main benefactor I couldn’t resist finishing with this delightful ACEO card by English artist Joanne Lennox – at £4.96 for the miniature painting (3.5″ x 2.5″) it’s probably one of my more expensive purchases.