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Lot 81: Joseph Malachy Kavanagh RHA (1856-1918)An Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem(1883)Oil on canvas, 68 x 45cm (26¾ x 17½'')SignedExhibited: 'The RHA Annual Exhibition', 1883, Cat. No.92; 'The Irish Impressionists' exhibition, NGI, October/November 1984,

Important Irish Art 7th December 2016

by Adam's

December 7, 2016

Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

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Joseph M. Kavanagh (1856-1918) Please Register/Login to access your Invaluable Alerts

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  • Joseph Malachy Kavanagh RHA (1856-1918)An Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem(1883)Oil on canvas, 68 x 45cm (26¾ x 17½'')SignedExhibited: 'The RHA Annual Exhibition', 1883, Cat. No.92; 'The Irish Impressionists' exhibition, NGI, October/November 1984,
  • Joseph Malachy Kavanagh RHA (1856-1918)An Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem(1883)Oil on canvas, 68 x 45cm (26¾ x 17½'')SignedExhibited: 'The RHA Annual Exhibition', 1883, Cat. No.92; 'The Irish Impressionists' exhibition, NGI, October/November 1984,
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Description: Joseph Malachy Kavanagh RHA (1856-1918)An Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem(1883)Oil on canvas, 68 x 45cm (26¾ x 17½'')SignedExhibited: 'The RHA Annual Exhibition', 1883, Cat. No.92; 'The Irish Impressionists' exhibition, NGI, October/November 1984, The Ulster Museum, February/March 1985, Cat. No.57.Literature: 'The Irish Impressionists', 1983, illustrated p.200.The 'Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem' is a companion picture to the slightly larger canvas 'Under the Shadow of St. Jacques, Antwerp', both being the most substantial pictures that Kavanagh painted in Belgium in the early 1880s. 'Under the Shadow of St. Jacques' (private collection) is an urban subject, showing two women in a courtyard fetching water, with the walls of the cathedral rising behind, while the 'Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem' is a rural scene, featuring two children in a sunny clearing in front of a well and tall trees. Both pictures centre upon the theme of a well or pump, with people fetching water. In both pictures, from foreground to top, Kavanagh enjoyed filling the composition with detail. Both pictures were painted in 1882 or 1883 and were exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in 1883, and helped draw attention to Kavanagh, along with his comrades, Walter Osborne, Nathaniel Hill and others, as a generation of young Realist painters who were studying on the continent.Born in Dublin in 1856, Joseph Malachy Kavanagh won the silver medal at the RDS Christmas Competition in 1875. He studied at the Metropolitan School of Art, 1877-78, then at the RHA Schools he won the Albert Scholarship in 1881. Along with Osborne and Hill, Kavanagh travelled to Antwerp in September 1881 to enrol in the Academie Royale de Beaux Arts, one of the leading art academies in Europe.He returned to Antwerp for a second year, 1882-83. Like Osborne, he spent an increasing amount of time painting in the open air, both street scenes in the old quarter of Antwerp and rural subjects in neighbouring villages. Of all the Irish artists in Antwerp, Kavanagh was strongly influenced by the Dutch and Belgian genre tradition and by contemporary Flemish Realists, such as Henri de Braekeleer (1840-1888), Piet Verhaert (1852-1908) and Charles Mertens (1865-1919).'An Old Flemish Draw-Well, Merxem' features two children, a girl and a boy, in front of an elaborate well structure and tall lush trees on a sunny summer's day. Merxem may have been a hamlet or farm just outside Antwerp.The well provided the focal point for life in villages and rural communities, a place where women and children could gather, fetch water for their daily needs, exchange news and relax for a moment. It provided popular genre subjects for 19th century artists in Brittany, Italy and elsewhere. Osborne, for example, painted scenes of women and children at the well or pump in Belgium, Brittany and Spain.There is a certain sombre quality to some of Kavanagh's work. But 'An Old Flemish Draw-Well' shows the charming aspect of his genre paintings: in the formality of the poses of the children and the warmth of light and colouring; in the cheerful blue of the jacket, the pale umber of the girl's dress and striped red and white stockings, echoed by the touches of terracotta in the brick-work behind, set against the lush greenery of the trees. His affection for children can be seen in his later painting 'Children Playing by a Bridge', featuring a girl with child and a boy playing by a river in north Co. Dublin.'An Old Flemish Draw-Well' was exhibited at the RHA in 1883, along with several other pictures of Belgian and Irish subjects. It was one of many Kavanagh pictures in the exhibition 'The Irish Impressionists, Irish Artists in France and Belgium', held at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin in 1984 and the Ulster Museum, Belfast in 1985.Dr. Julian Campbell

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