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Lot 107: James Brenan RHA (1837-1907)

Est: €15,000 EUR - €20,000 EURSold:
Whyte'sMarch 14, 2011Ballsbridge, Ireland

Item Overview

Description

THE FINISHING TOUCH, 1876
signed and dated with usual monogram '19JB01' lower left; with inscribed exhibition label on reverse detailing artist's name, title, address [Buckston Hill, Sundays Well, Cork] and price [£35-0-0]

Dimensions

64 by 76cm., 25 by 30in.

Artist or Maker

Medium

oil on canvas

Exhibited

Exhibited:
RHA, 1876 exhibition no. 27 [£35-0-0]

Notes

James Brenan was one of the foremost painters of genre and narrative works of his time in Ireland. When he exhibited this work in Dublin, he was Headmaster of the School of Art in Cork. Such salaried work allowed him the freedom to paint what he liked, rather than what could have been more overtly commercial. This is one of the first of several important paintings where he focused his brush directly on the tragedy of poverty and emigration from rural Ireland. It was not only the Great Famine of the 1840's that forced millions to leave old Ireland for the 'New Worlds' of America, Canada and Australia, but recurring failures of the potato crop, and crises in the coastal fishing or mining industries, compelled people to leave and search for work abroad. Usually it was the young, and even children, who had to go. Their parents and grandparents and youngest siblings, without job prospects or the means to travel or resettle, were forced to stay behind. It is typical of Brenan that he should portray this poignant gathering within the heart of the farmhouse. Other artists described the scene on the quayside or station platform (Erskine Nicol's, Outward Bound,[i] of 1852 and The Emigrants, of 1864[ii]). It is no coincidence that so many of these artists, like Brenan, originated from Munster, which lost 23% of its population through death and emigration (G.M.W. Atkinson, Emigrants at Cork, c.1840, Robert R. Scanlon, Emigrants Awaiting Embarkation, West Cork, 1852, and C.H. Cook, Awaiting the Emigrant Ship, 1867).[iii] Most of Brenan's best work was set in cabins or farmhouses, where he returned repeatedly to fraternise with farmers, weavers and fishermen, use them as his models and their homes as his backdrops. His involvement with The Great Exhibition (of arts and manufacturing) in London in the 1850's, and his subsequent promotion of lace-making as a cottage industry in Ireland, shows how genuinely concerned he was with Ireland's rural poor. This narrative scene is unveiled like the central act of a play. Such 'conversation pieces' invited the well-educated Dublin audience to decipher the topical message leading up to this point, and the consequences. They would have been expected to read the symbolism like text. The story is of a young woman on the eve of departure to America, her father takes centre stage, and Brenan's title The Finishing Touch refers not only to his hand on the emigrant's box, but also to the work of the painter, who is completing the words on the green box. The green is of course symbolic of Ireland. Brenan was also concerned with the poor state of Irish schools (another topic that he addressed through his art) and the sign-writer, seated on a four legged creepie stool, has struggled to form the letters of the girl's name O'Connor, New York. His pot of paint is in the foreground. The father's pain at the impending loss of his daughter is exemplified by his sad expression and stooping stance, as he leans on a stick. The box was typically small enough to be carried under one arm, and to contain only the meagre possessions essential for the hazardous journey on a 'coffin ship'. To the right, the youngest brother carries turf into the kitchen, in a creel on his back. He is likely to be the next one to emigrate. The shadowy figure behind him, contemplating the scene, reappears in Brenan's News from America (1875, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery Collection), which might easily be the subsequent scene of this drama.[iv] A hatbox is open on the settle. The daughter is adjusting her hat using a hand mirror lit by the window, while her mother looks on. On the cabin wall is a picture within a picture; a device frequently used by the earlier and strongly influential Dutch genre painters, to echo the main narrative. It shows a Madonna and child, in an unframed broadsheet surrounded by further tiny images. So many left for America that a tradition known as the 'American Wake' was a gathering for friends, family and neighbours, on an emigrant's departure. It was a wake for the living rather than the dead, people were brought in to keen, and such sad affairs lacked the carousing and dancing that wakes for the dead often included. This painting would have roused emotions when exhibited in Dublin's Royal Hibernian Academy, as well as influencing other painters. A most notable example is Breaking Home Ties, that shows the same juxtaposition of a mother's farewell to her son, but in an American kitchen. Painted by Thomas Hovenden, an acclaimed early student of Brenan's from the Cork School of Art, himself a County Cork orphan who emigrated to New York in 1863.[v] The year Hovenden arrived, he was only one of well over one hundred and fifty thousand County Cork immigrants who had arrived in Manhattan. More people than made up all of the city of Cork[vi], which demonstrates the importance of Brenan's painted message. Dr. Claudia Kinmonth Cork, February 2011 Footnotes: [i] C. Kinmonth in P. Murray ed., Whipping the Herring (Crawford Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, Cork, 2006), p.108, fig. 109. [ii] B. Arnold, Irish Art (Thames & Hudson, 1977), p.127, fig. 121.[iii] P. Murray ed., Whipping the Herring (Crawford Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, Cork, 2006), p.124-129, 238.[iv] C. Kinmonth, Irish Rural Interiors in Art (Yale University Press, 2006), fig. 248, p. 255. [v] P. Murray, Whipping the Herring., fig.2, p.13.[vi] A. G. Terhune, P. Smith Scanlan, Thomas Hovenden; His Life and Art (Pennsylvania, 2006), 3.

Payment & Shipping

Payment

Accepted forms of payment: MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Other, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer

Shipping

The buyer will be responsible for all removal, storage and insurance charges in respect of any lot which has not been collected within fourteen days of the date of sale.

Auction Details

Irish & British Art

by
Whyte's
March 14, 2011, 06:00 PM GMT

Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Anglesea Road Entrance, Ballsbridge, Dublin, D04 HY94, IE

Terms

Buyer's Premium

20.0%

Bidding Increments

From:To:Increment:
€0€299€20
€300€1,299€50
€1,300€2,999€100
€3,000€6,999€200
€7,000€12,999€500
€13,000€29,999€1,000
€30,000€69,999€2,000
€70,000€119,999€5,000
€120,000€249,999€10,000
€250,000+€20,000

Terms and Conditions of Sale Notice

Whyte & Sons Auctioneers Limited, trading as Whyte's, hereinafter called "the auctioneer" exercises all reasonable care to ensure that all descriptions are reliable and accurate, and that each item is genuine unless the contrary is indicated. However, the descriptions are not intended to be, are not and are not to be taken to be, statements of fact or representations of fact in relation to the lot. They are statements of the opinion of the auctioneers, and attention is particularly drawn to clause 5 set out below. Comments and opinions, which may be found in or on lots as labels, notes, lists, catalogue prices, or any other means of expression, do not constitute part of lot descriptions and are not to be taken as such unless they are made or specifically verified by the auctioneers. 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(g) Any lot listed as a "collection, range, portfolio etc." or stated to comprise or contain a collection or range of items which are not described shall be put up for sale not subject to rejection and shall be taken by the purchaser with all (if any) faults, lack of genuineness and errors of description and numbers of items in the lot, and the purchaser shall have no right to reject the lot; except that, notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this sub-clause, where before a sale a person intending to bid at the sale gives notice in writing to, and satisfies the auctioneer that any such lot contains any item or items undescribed in the sale catalogue and that person specifically describes that item or those items in that notice, then that item or those items shall, as between the auctioneer and that person, to be taken to form part of the description of the lot. Clause 6 The respective rights and obligations of the parties shall be governed and interpreted by Irish law, and the buyer hereby submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Irish Courts. SPECIAL CONDITIONS (a) The buyer shall pay the Auctioneer a commission at the rate of 16.52% (which excludes VAT at the prevailing rate under The Margin Scheme and which is not reclaimable (b) The Auctioneer or its employees, servants or agents may, on request organise packing and shipping of lots purchased or may order on the buyer's behalf third parties to pack or ship purchases. Under no circumstances does the Auctioneer accept any liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever occasioned in the course of such service. (c) The buyer authorises the Auctioneer to use any photographs or illustrations of any lot purchased for any or all purposes as the Auctioneer may require. The placing of a bid will be taken as full agreement to all the above conditions. WHYTE & SONS AUCTIONEERS LIMITED 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2

Credit Cards, continued

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Condition

Whyte & Sons Auctioneers Limited, trading as Whyte's, hereinafter called "the auctioneer" exercises all reasonable care to ensure that all descriptions are reliable and accurate, and that each item is genuine unless the contrary is indicated. However, the descriptions are not intended to be, are not and are not to be taken to be, statements of fact or representations of fact in relation to the lot. They are statements of the opinion of the auctioneers, and attention is particularly drawn to clause 5 in our full Terms & Conditions. Comments and opinions, which may be found in or on lots as labels, notes, lists, catalogue prices, or any other means of expression, do not constitute part of lot descriptions and are not to be taken as such unless they are made or specifically verified by the auctioneers.

Premium & Taxes

The buyer shall pay the Auctioneer a commission at the rate of 16.52% (which excludes VAT at the prevailing rate under The Margin Scheme and which is not reclaimable). This amounts to a gross rate of 20% inclusive. There is NO extra charge for bidding on line.

Payment

Each lot shall be paid for in full before delivery and taken away at his/her expense within fourteen days of the sale.

Shipping

The buyer will be responsible for all removal, storage and insurance charges in respect of any lot which has not been collected within fourteen days of the date of sale.