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Lot 64: Mildred Anne Butler RWS FRSA RUA (1858-1941)Pot LuckWatercolour, 36 x 54cm (14¼ x 21¼'')Signed and dated 'Nov 9, 1897'; inscribed with title on label verso, 'No. 8, £25.00' and with the remains of original backing paper and trade label for 'H. Jut

Important Irish Art 7th December 2016

by Adam's

December 7, 2016

Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

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Description: Mildred Anne Butler RWS FRSA RUA (1858-1941)Pot LuckWatercolour, 36 x 54cm (14¼ x 21¼'')Signed and dated 'Nov 9, 1897'; inscribed with title on label verso, 'No. 8, £25.00' and with the remains of original backing paper and trade label for 'H. Jutton, Picture Frame Maker and Mount Cutter, 4 St. Andrew's Street, Dublin'Exhibited: Old Watercolour Society London Winter 1897;Watercolour Society of Ireland, Annual Exhibition, 1899, priced £25.0.0Literature: Artists own diary “Touched up and sent off 4 pics for Johnson Post … 4 “Pot Luck” with schedules labels etc.Provenance: From the estate of Mrs Doreen Archer-Houblon Kilmurry House and her sale Christies Oct 1981 Cat. No. 167 (Illustrated in catalogue).Butler had a keen and prolonged interest in studying directly from nature. She drew on her local environment at Kilmurry which provided the most constant source of inspiration for her paintings. In particular the profusion of birdlife in the area such as larger varieties of crows, jackdaws and pigeons. Her interest in animal painting must have led her to the studio of William Frank Calderon who was well known for this genre and founded a School of Animal Painting 1894 in London. She went to Newlyn in Cornwall spending two consecutive summers there in 1894 and 1895 to study under limerick-born painter Norman Garstin, who introduced her to the work of the Impressionists. In this period she developed her final style of broad washes and a strong use of colour in line with a keen understanding of light and shade. An overabundance of highly coloured blossoms populate her scenes of gardens in flower.She supplemented her small quick drawings with full-scale charcoal cartoons, many of which survive, as correction in the watercolour medium is nearly impossible. From her detailed notes recorded en plein air she completed the painting in her studio. Great attention was paid to realistic detail, often using taxidermy birds to copy from. The low viewpoint in this composition helps to draw the viewer into the image combined with a formula of rendering detailed close-ups, clearly defined feathers and a claw grasping the edge brass bucket. There is a clever pairing of details within the composition; in the background, a bucket, half submerged underwater weighted down with leaves is repeated in the foreground as the crow bends its head to drink. It also suggests a multi-episodic narrative as if the crow has just taken flight from one bucket and landed unsteadily on the edge of the other with one leg extended behind him. These strong animal silhouettes set against hazy atmospheric backgrounds led to direct, uncluttered compositions. There is certain nostalgia in Butler’s work for Edwardian country house life with an unhurried, peaceful atmosphere. Butler came from well-off landed family and did not need to sell her work which helped to contribute to the perception of her painting as mere accomplishment. It was crucially important for women to have economic freedom or support in order to be able to pursue painting as it was not seen as a proper profession for women at the time. In 1896 she became an associate of the Royal Society of Painters of Watercolours but she was only made a full member in 1937 after she had given up painting due to arthritis.Niamh Corcoran, November 2016

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