Sir John Macneill’s Road Culvert

Last week, after months of fruitless searching I found another work by Olive Adelaide Swanzy (OAS), this time quite by chance when I was just doing a routine trawl of Irish art listings on eBay.The painting was not attributed to any artist and the description – Irish Modern Art Watercolour Painting of a Road Culvert Signed – wouldn’t send one’s heart racing. I wouldn’t have bothered clicking on it at all only that the bridge in the small photograph had a familiar look about it. Sure enough, when enlarged it was no ordinary culvert bridge but Sir John Macneill’s magnificent ‘Egyptian Arch‘ which carries the Dublin/Belfast railway line near Newry.

Dating from 1851 the Egyptian Arch gained its name from its resemblance to the nemes headdress worn by Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. More recently, the bridge was selected for the design of the £1 coin to represent Northern Ireland for 2006. All four of the bridge design pound coins for each constituent part of the UK were designed by wood engraver Edwina Ellis in a Royal Mint design competition.

The painting, a watercolour drawing, is just (6″ x 4.5″) but worth every penny of the £30 it cost. The artist’s initials are present on the bottom right hand corner and, of course, the bridge is only a few miles from the artist’s home in Rostrevor.

Also not far from her home is the famous 50-ton granite boulder known as the “Cloughmore Stone“, an erratic left behind by a retreating glacier and a subject that she must have painted – I’ll keep searching…

My thanks to Steve Skerratt, Belfast, for his help with this acquisition.

Top: W. Lawrence photograph c.1880/1890 and Bottom: 1950’s view by Olive Swanzy.

Long lost (?) Maurice Wilks oil on eBay

Not for the first time, an original of one of Maurice Wilks’ paintings that was previously used on a Scholastic postcard has appeared for sale. This time on eBay, and at a rather tempting price of just US $2,450.00. In my opinion it did not reproduce well as a postcard, Scholastic # 817 “The Rugged Coast of Ireland”, printed by Stehli Bros., Switzerland. It was also used to produce a large print of the scene which still appears for sale from time to time. Interestingly, the back of this painting carries the stamp for Stehli Frères, Zurich as well as the original title for the work “White Rocks at Glenarm, Co.Antrim”.

Stehli Frères produced many lithograph copies of watercolours throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. Their lithos were usually printed on a heavy watercolour-like paper stock with rough edges to give the appearance of an actual watercolour painting and were done with very high lithographic quality at the time. Their postcards were printed in the same style on a heavy card – the rough edges always being a telltale sign of the printer.

Anyway, “White Rocks at Glenarm” is too rich for me but surely an opportunity for somebody to pick up a really nice painting for a pittance.

White Rocks at Glenarm, Co.Antrim” oil on panel (16″ x 20″) – Scholastic postcard insert for reference and is not on the painting!

Robert Barlow – Another missing NI artist!

Robert Barlow was active in the 1940’s and three postcards using his work published by the now defunct Scholastic Production Co., Belfast, are the only evidence that he was ever amongst us. Given that Scholastic used exclusively Northern Irish artists for their postcards it follows that Robert Barlow was from that part of the world and somebody, somewhere must know of him? An online search today just brings up my own postings and questions on various forums – a dead end. Judging from the above card and the other two listed on the Wildlife page he was quite an accomplished artist – anybody, please?

More ‘class’ burds

Spring is in the air and I have recently been lucky enough to add three further pictures to my growing collection of bird paintings. Two of these are by the elusive W Huston and I just couldn’t resist the Blue Tit (in the oval) by listed English artist – Richard Duffield – a snip at just £44.95 including delivery!

I don’t know where this is all going but I find that I still have a strong acquisitive streak – even in my dotage. Some of the bird paintings will hopefully appear in a long in gestation book, while others will be used in my various forays into postcard and Christmas card publishing. I have at last started to put some shape on my collection and have begun disposing of various impulse purchases which don’t really fit with my core interests.

Anyway, that’s enough self indulgence for one post – enjoy the new images.

Left to right: Blue Tits on a silver birch; and Chaffinches – both purchased for a song.
Superb study of a Blue Tit by British artist Richard Duffield.

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:

Modern Art or Toddler Art?


My 12 year old son presented me with this challenge a couple of weeks back, and I’m proud  to say that I got 9/11 answers correct – all that trawling through the ‘art‘ of Sean Scully, Michael Flatley et al must be paying dividends! I posted the  simple quiz on my “Collect Ireland” site but was surprised by the lack of feedback!

It only takes a minute – see how you get on click here: Modern Art or Toddler Art?


What is Art?

According to Google – The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

To Plato, art was imitation of nature, but in the 19th century, photography took over that function, and in the 20th, abstract art overturned the whole notion that art was about representation. And although art meant skill early on, conceptual artists elevated ideas over execution. So what is art? Does it have to be beautiful? Expressive?  Original?  Uplifting?  Intellectual?

“Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding”.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985) Russian-French Expressionist artist.

Just a few thoughts on which to launch the blog and rather than go on at greater length here I’m going to suggest that you may like to read this essay by American Artist/Graphic Designer – David Lance Goines.