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Lot 159: Frank McKelvey RHA RUA (1895-1974)A Fair DayOil on canvas, 46 x 61cm (18 x 24'')SignedFrank McKelvey (1895-1974) was born in Belfast. He worked as a poster designer before entering the Belfast School of Art. In 1911-12 he won the Sir Charles Bre

Important Irish Art 7th December 2016

by Adam's

December 7, 2016

Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

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Description: Frank McKelvey RHA RUA (1895-1974)A Fair DayOil on canvas, 46 x 61cm (18 x 24'')SignedFrank McKelvey (1895-1974) was born in Belfast. He worked as a poster designer before entering the Belfast School of Art. In 1911-12 he won the Sir Charles Brett Prize for figure drawing, the Fitzpatrick Prize for figure drawing in 1913-14 and a bronze medal in 1917. He was commissioned by Thomas McGowan to paint pictures of old Belfast, and this collection is in the Ulster Museum. He was a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and exhibited in Belfast, Dublin and Derry. He painted many portraits, amongst them Sir William Whitlaw, the Duke of Abercorn, first governor of Northern Ireland and Professor Sir William Thomson. He illustrated Margaret Holland's book 'My Winter of Content', and his work is represented in many collections, including that of the Ulster Museum. S.B. Kennedy wrote about ‘A Fair Day, Donegal’, ‘This characteristic McKelvey composition conveys all the excitement and atmosphere of a country fair. The artist told a previous owner of the picture (letter of 9 January 1969) that it was 'probably painted in Donegal, one of the few places left where one can happily see this kind of life.' He continued, saying that the location 'may not be topographical', as he considered it more important that the design or composition should conform to that which he had in mind at the time. The figure groups, he said, were made from sketches done on the spot together with colour notes 'or anything helpful in capturing the spirit of the scene’. In his work ‘Market Scene’ c.1935, similar to the approach here, the work is looser and is concerned with portraying an overall mood of a market town, rather than a definitive place or transaction. McKelvey continued to capture this subject on occasion, his latest known work ‘The Cattle Fair’ 1971.This composition is full of activity and such a proliferation of figures is rare in McKelvey’s work. He has decided to concentrate human activity to the middle ground where we see various groups of people gathered in conversation, speculation and observation of the cattle fair. The primary groups to left and right are brought forward in the middle ground to define the scene. These include two women talking to the left, a man beside them viewing proceedings and on the right a man looks slightly forward, perhaps a slight acknowledgment to the artist capturing the scene. Also on the right are a man with a white beard and a woman with a basket in her arms. Two little girls are loosely indicated in white and blue behind this group. The foreground is kept simple and the background shows an interesting white building with a red door at the top of external stairs, a loosely treated tree to the left of this and another building beyond. To the right is a broad arch with double gate beneath it and yard indicated beyond. McKelvey generally conducts experiments with light and shade in his compositions, yet here he has decided not to, most likely because there is such a concentration of activity within the painting. Instead he has employed light uniformly, a strategy more characteristic of topographical scenes as it heightens accuracy of featured elements.Marianne O'Kane BoalNovember 2016

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