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Lot 162: James Brenan RHA (1837-1907) STUDY OF AN OLD MAN

Est: €5,000 EUR - €7,000 EUR
Whyte'sMarch 02, 2009Dublin, Ireland

Item Overview


James Brenan RHA (1837-1907) STUDY OF AN OLD MAN SEATED OUTSIDE A COTTAGE oil on canvas 52 by 34cm., 20.5 by 13.25in> Provenance: By decent from the artist to the previous owner This painting was also in the possession of the same descendant of James Brenan, as Morning Prayer [lot 161] when I examined and photographed it during the 1990s. I had recently given a public illustrated slide show and included some of Brenan's genre paintings. The owner of these two paintings had approached me afterwards, knowing that I was interested in seeing more of his work. Until that point the oils had been hung in the owner's home, and had not been seen publicly since Morning Prayer was exhibited in Dublin in 1902. The family had kept it, enjoying the understanding that it was the last painting that Brenan had been working on, before he death in 1907. This explains its unfinished, unsigned and undated state. After leaving his position in Cork where he was headmaster, he was appointed to the same top position at the Dublin school of Art, where he stayed until 1904. During this later period he continued to paint, and exhibited regularly right up until 1906, the year before he died, at the Royal Hibernian Academy> This unfinished oil of an old man, sitting and looking reflective, seems especially poignant and almost autobiographical, at the late stage of this artist's productive life, when he would have been in his seventieth year. The old man is dressed in old fashioned knee breeches, which were frequently worn like this, unbuttoned at the knee, and the patched yet tidy state of his jacket and Carolan hat was also typical attire for a working countryman, during the previous century. He appears to be sitting outside the doorway of a stone house, on a sheaf of oats, and the seed head of the oats and knife in his hands show that he is fashioning something out of the golden straw. His nailed working boots, typically depicted with realistic detail, suggest the hard working life the man has led> The man depicted here appears in at least one other of Brenan's works: e.g. Labourer with a Rake in a Flooded Field (Private collection, Dublin) - see fig. 1> Dr Claudia Kinmonth MA (RCA) Cork February 2009 Dr Kinmonth, is the author of Irish Country Furniture 1700-1950 (Yale University Press, 1993) and Irish Rural Interiors in Art (Yale University Press, 2006)>

Artist or Maker

Auction Details

Irish & British Art

March 02, 2009, 06:00 PM GMT

38 Molesworth Street, Dublin, 2, IE