Belfast Telegraph

Paintings by Basil Blackshaw go under hammer for first time since artist's death

By Laura Abernethy

Paintings by renowned artist Basil Blackshaw are to go on sale for the first time since his death.

The Co Antrim-born artist, who was regarded as one of Ireland's greatest talents and guarded his privacy fiercely, died at the age of 83 on May 1.

He was born in Co Down in 1932 and he went on to paint rural scenes and portraits of writers such as Brian Friel, John Hewitt and Michael Longley.

His work reflected his rural upbringing in Port Mills, Co Down, and he was particularly admired for his studies of horse racing and boxing.

In later years his paintings, including the four up for auction tomorrow, became more abstract.

The paintings will go under the hammer at De Veres Art Auctions, giving the market its first opportunity to put a value on Blackshaw's legacy.

There are three smaller pictures entitled Farmhouse In A Landscape, Evening Landscape and Wheaten Terrier, and one larger piece called Headland 2, produced in 1992.

The smaller pieces came from a private collection owned by a close friend of Blackshaw.

Headland 2 was originally in the collection of now bankrupt Irish tycoon Tony O'Reilly, but later sold in England. It will now be returned to Ireland to be sold as part of the auction.

Auctioneer John de Vere White explained: "These are top examples of Basil at his very best.

"All the Blackshaws we have are very approachable pictures. Some of his later pictures were not as accessible as these four.

"As they are the first to come on the market since he passed, it will be interesting to see what happens."

He added that despite Blackshaw's death, the pieces remain fairly affordable with prices starting at roughly £1,400.

Mr de Vere White said: "The interesting thing is that, 10 years ago, you couldn't get your hands on a Blackshaw for love nor money.

"Then he started sending pictures and you went from never seeing them anywhere to quite a few coming on the market.

"They suddenly weren't as rare as hen's teeth. If anything, his prices 10 years ago were higher than they are now.

"But I do think that when someone like Basil dies, there is a reassessment of their work. Art critic Brian Fallon said that Blackshaw was as good an artist as John Yeats.

"I think we are lucky that we have pictures here that are affordable and really good examples of his work."

There has been a lot of interest in the pictures, which are currently on view in De Veres' gallery on Kildare Street in Dublin.

"Basil's work is undervalued," Mr DeVere added.

"We used to sell them for €40,000-€50,000 and now we have a top Basil Blackshaw here for €8,000-€12,000.

"We do expect them to sell well as I think Basil is in the premiership of Irish painting and he's going to stay there. There has been a lot of interest, but they are very good pictures."

Despite the popularity of his work, Blackshaw was a famously reclusive figure, and he only gave his first television interview earlier this year to journalist Eamonn Mallie.

Following his death Mr Mallie told the BBC: "He didn't seek the limelight and we were very fortunate to capture the spirit of the man on camera so late in his life."

Belfast Telegraph


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